4-H program coordinator resigns

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus

mwallFor the third time in less than two years, Houston County and the University of Minnesota Extension will be trying to fill the 4-H coordinator position.

Meghan Wall resigned effective Aug. 18 to accept a full-time job in La Crescent after serving as the coordinator for a year and half. The county’s contract with the Extension pays for a 0.75 full-time equivalent. Extension representatives told the County Board on Aug. 6 that limiting the position to 0.75 is hurting the program.

“Meghan has resigned for a full-time position for community education in La Crescent. The previous person also left for a full-time position. Having the position at 0.75, we’ve lost two program coordinators in the last year and a half,” LuAnn Hiniker, regional Extension director, said. “There’s many things she would like to do in the position that she simply cannot do at 30 hours per week.”

The county currently invests $48,675 in the position. This amount does not represent the salary, rather the cost of the contract with the extension to oversee the program, including salary and benefits. Another $16,225 would cover a 1.0 full-time 4-H coordinator.

Elden Pohlman, Houston County Fair Board president, attended the meeting and voiced his support of making the position full time.

“You guys are losing out by not keeping someone in full time because of all the time it takes them to get up to speed on what’s happening in the county. Meghan did a wonderful job, and I hate to see her leave,” he said.

There are more than 370 youth members and 95 screened volunteers participating in Houston County 4-H.

“Houston County has more members enrolled in 4-H programming than many other counties, yet is expected to operate with less 4-H staff time. This is not realistic,” Wall wrote in a piece she prepared for the County Board.

She continued, “Consideration also needs to be given to the fact that if we want to provide quality programs, then time needs to be given to planning. This is one area I feel is hit hardest by reduced hours. With almost every event or activity we have, I find myself not having enough time to plan. Not having enough time to plan and organize can have detrimental effects on the quality of a program.”

Members of the County Board expressed support toward the recommendation but questioned where the money will come from.

“It’s a stretch. I’d like to see the position full time, but budgeting …,” Commissioner Steve Schuldt said.

“It’s a kid issue and I’m really big on kid issues,” Commissioner Judy Storlie said.

Commissioner Teresa Walter added that she felt the program was a great value for the tax dollar.

“I think we’re leaning to a full-time position, but we need to find the money for it,” Walter said.

Along those lines, Commissioner Justin Zmyewski said, “I don’t feel comfortable going ahead today without knowing where the money is coming from.”

The board agreed to have the finance director look for places to skim dollars. The item will be revisited this week. In the meantime, Wall leaves a legacy of commitment to the youth of the county.

“In reviewing my plan of work for this year, I can see that I am very motivated to bring a quality 4-H program to Houston County. However, after reviewing my progress with my proposed plan of work, and what I have been able to accomplish, I can see that there are many limitations to bringing these items to reality. This is not to say that I am not working hard on these things and the normal workload of any 4-H program coordinator, but shows how much this county could benefit from a 1.0 FTE 4-H program coordinator.”