'Tremendous assets' retire from Bartow County Extension Office
by Marie Nesmith
Jan 08, 2012 | 2788 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kathy Floyd, left, teaches a food safety class last year. Floyd, who joined the Bartow County Extension Office in 1988, retired from the agency on Dec. 31, 2011.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As 2012 gets under way, Bartow County Extension Office's new makeup is starting to take shape. The organization is in the process of bidding goodbye to two employees -- secretary Debbie Hawkins and county agent Kathy Floyd -- who are retiring, with the latter's family and consumer sciences position being lost to attrition.

Combined, the women have more than 50 years of experience with the Bartow office, helping hundreds of children and adults along the way.

"They'll be sorely missed by all the staff here in our office," said Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese, who also serves as the office's agriculture and natural resources agent. "We've just absolutely enjoyed working with them over the years. Of course, me growing up as a 4-H'er I've known them for my entire life basically. And then more recently, moving in to my new role in Bartow County, I've had an opportunity to actually work with them as colleagues.

"They've just been a tremendous asset to this organization. They will not be easily filled as far as their positions. There's a lot of experience that we'll be losing in terms of this organization."

For those wishing to say farewell to Hawkins and Floyd, a drop-in celebration is being held in their honor Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Bartow County Extension Office/Stiles Auditorium, 320 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville. While it is not required, Pugliese encourages people to RSVP to the reception by calling 770-387-5143 or emailing pugliese@uga.edu.

Kathy Floyd

Retiring from her part-time position on Dec. 31, 2011, Floyd joined the Bartow County Extension team in 1988 and later became the coordinator from 2002 to 2011. With her father being a former county extension agent, Floyd was involved in the 4-H Club during her youth and described later following in his footsteps professionally as a "natural fit."

During her tenure as the family and consumer sciences agent, Floyd has led many endeavors, including teaching various classes, from food safety to restaurants and the general public to money management and parenting.

"I enjoy teaching," Floyd said. "That's just a blanket statement, but I really enjoy working with the kids in 4-H. I love teaching adults, too, but my heart's in 4-H. We have a judging team that I coach that won state -- our consumer judging, and they're going to Denver [Jan. 4 to 8] to compete at the Western National Roundup.

"So I am going with them because I coach the team. ... Then until our project achievement is over with, I'm [also] working with the boys and girls that are doing food projects. ... That light bulb [of understanding] is always nice to see. I love the leadership projects, the public speaking part of it, helping them just become more confident, more self-assured. That's what I like the best."

Through the years, Floyd said she has witnessed many changes in the Extension Office, ranging from meeting the needs of a growing population to her position's concentration.

"Certainly our clientele base has grown, the people that we have to serve," Floyd said. "Unfortunately, our staffing has not increased. So just like everybody else, we [are] trying to serve additional people without having additional people come in. And, of course, we're much more technology-based than we were in the beginning when I first started.

"[Also] what people generally would think of when I was growing up, they called [it] a home demonstration agent, was more relegated to helping to manage just the household and now we're much broader. ... Rather than [just focusing on] decorating and crafts and recipes and things like that, we're much more into the food safety part of it and the nutritional healthy eating, healthy lifestyles."

While her retirement plans are still up in the air, she is pledging to remain active and seek part-time work.

"We have a daughter that lives in Saudi Arabia and a new grandchild and my mother's in Summerville, so I'd like to have a little freedom to be able to go visit with them," said Floyd, who lives in Cassville with her husband, Gary. "But I am certainly not going to sit at home. That is not in my plans."

Debbie Hawkins

Like Floyd, Hawkins has seen many changes in the Extension Office's operations and clientele. Serving as the team's secretary since 1982, her key roles have been to support the county agents, greet and assist the public, and bookkeeping.

"[I have enjoyed] working with the farmers," said Hawkins, a resident of White. "When I began [in the 1980s], we had a lot of them. [But] probably [what I have loved most] is working with the 4-H'ers.

"I have ... helped them with projects, speeches, just like any of the agents would, when they needed me," she said, adding she has assisted "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of youth through the years. "Paul Pugliese was about 2 or 3 years old the first time I saw him and he came in and he was hiding behind his mama's legs and his big sister was in 4-H. So I've made the comment, 'When your 4-H'er becomes your boss, it's time to retire' -- not that he's not a fantastic one."

Planning to retire at the end of February, Hawkins is looking forward to gardening, possibly substitute teaching and especially spending more time with her husband of 33 years, John.

"This is a wonderful place," Hawkins said. "It has been a wonderful career, and when I started, I was just going to stay until I had children and they're 25 and 23 now. ... [At Thursday's reception] it will be nice to see a lot of the people that we've helped through the years and that we've been able to assist.

"I do love helping people. I was telling somebody at lunch today, 'Whatever I do next -- part time is what I prefer -- it will be helping people because that's what I love to do.'"

Budget constraints

With the retirement of Floyd, the Bartow County Extension team now will consist of two agents -- Pugliese and Allison Perkins, whose concentration is 4-H. Pugliese, who joined the team in June 2011, succeeded Floyd as county coordinator in September.

While Hawkins' secretary position will be announced on the University of Georgia's website and filled as soon as possible, that will not be the case for Floyd's.

"Kathy's position for the time being is not going to be filled. So that program area, the family consumer science program, unfortunately it will be vacant in Bartow County. Actually, there's a lot of vacancies in that program area in a lot of our surrounding counties right now. It's not something that we can entirely pick up because my training is agriculture and I'll be the department head, too. And that program area is so unique entirely that I wouldn't be able to totally do justice to that program. We do have another extension agent here but her area of programming is specifically just 4-H. That's Allison Perkins.

"We're still here as a resource to the community. So anytime people have questions as far as troubleshooting when it comes to canning, cooking, preserving, any home consumer type questions, we'll still try to help folks and get them the information that they need. Of course, we have fax sheets and publications that are always available through the Extension Office. If there's something that we can't assist a client with, that's where we'll try to find the next closest agent, perhaps Cobb County or one of the other counties nearby that does have an agent to try to help assist that client. But because there isn't somebody here, there may be a little bit of a delay as far as getting back to that client. It won't be as quick as far as the response as what folks are used to. People are used to just calling Kathy and getting a response right away. So folks need to realize that. That is a hole in our organization. And hopefully as the economy improves, maybe in the next year or two, we might be able to fill that position again."