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Extension Director Bob Behnkendorf To Be Honored At Open House

By Staff | Jun 16, 2009

With the recently announced restructuring of the Iowa State University Extension Service, Bob Behnkendorf, shared County Education Extension Director for Kossuth and Palo Alto Counties, has announced his retirement.

To honor Bob for his years of service to the citizens of both counties, the Palo Alto and Kossuth County Extension Councils and Extension Offices will host a joint retirement reception on Friday, June 26 at the Kossuth County Extension Office, 1121 Hwy 18 East in Algona. The reception will run from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Behnkendorf has served as the joint county extension education director for both Palo Alto and Kossuth Counties for the past four years.

Since the announcement of the restructuring by ISU Extension, there was a lot of concern and surprise from counties across the state, but emotions are being replaced by positive efforts on the part of extension staff and council members, Jack Payne, Vice President for ISU Extension and Outreach, told the Iowa Board of Regents at its meeting June 11.

ISU Extension administration held regional sessions in May to present the plan to extension staff and councils, providing details and listening to the concerns of those most affected by the restructuring process. Council member comments indicate the elimination of the county extension education director (CEED) positions was perhaps the most difficult part of the plan for many at these regional sessions.

“The county council has worked closely with the county director, but it is the county director who has the connections and is the face of Extension,” said Dona Paulson, Winnebago County Extension Council member. “It is hard to imagine how one regional director will be able to maintain that contact for five counties.”

“Councils came to the regional meetings angry and concerned,” Payne told the Board of Regents on June 11. “A Davenport council member summarized the feelings of many by saying, ‘When I came to this meeting I was angry and ready to argue; but now that I understand the situation and see your plan as a solution, I want to work with you and make it happen.'”

The restructuring plan has evolved as council members and staff contributed feedback to the plan details. Regents Board members asked Payne to clarify questions they had received from constituents regarding region size and reductions in administration and staff numbers. Satisfied that they had endorsed a well-thought-out plan in April, the Board continued to support the plan and Payne’s efforts to move Extension forward.

Part of that forward movement has been to involve council members in the regional extension education director (REED) interviews. The REED positions were opened internally to those whose positions had been eliminated by the plan – county and area extension directors.

REED interviews will continue through late June, with the announcement of those selected for the positions coming by July 1. All current CEED positions end Aug. 31. Some county extension councils have elected to hire directors as county paid staff, and some directors, such as Behnkendorf, have chosen the ISU Retirement Incentive Option, which allows them to stay on staff until Jan. 31. A variety of local scenarios will play out as the transition to the restructured organization continues.

“This is an innovative and bold restructuring. It meets the financial realities we are facing and creates a flexible organization positioned to maintain its leadership as one of the best extension systems in the nation,” Payne said. “Iowa State University and Extension Councils will work together to change our methods, but not our mission.”