Q&A with Jackson-Swain Extension Director

Robert “Rob” Hawk, a Whittier resident and the former community resource development agent in this region for the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, last month became the new county extension director for Jackson and Swain counties.

Hawk replaced Jeff Seiler, who retired in October 2009, after serving as county extension director in both counties for 10 years.

Hawk has held the position of community resource development agent, based in Waynesville, since 2004. He also has worked as an area extension agent for community development, based in Sylva (2000-2003) and as a community development, agriculture and 4-H Extension agent in Cherokee (1997-2000).

Hawk earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure administration from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management, with a minor in public policy and resource economics, from N.C. State University.

The Smoky Mountain News asked Hawk a few questions about his plans for Jackson and Swain counties. Here’s what he said in reply:

Q: What administrative changes do you plan on making, if any?

A: Administratively there are no changes to be made at this time, due to a shortage in the budgets for additional staff. Hopefully in 2011 we can regain our family and consumer science extension agent back to the Swain County Extension Center.

Q: What special problems come for a director answering to commissioners and residents of two counties?

A: There is really not a problem serving two counties … I have been an area extension agent for the last 10 years covering 10 counties from Buncombe County west. There may be a slight challenge in doing everything administratively twice instead of once.

Q: There is no one on staff for the extension service in Jackson and Swain counties with particular experience dealing with livestock. Any plans to address this gap?

A: There are plans to hopefully hire a livestock agent in Macon County, who would also serve the counties of Macon, Swain and Jackson, the same area that is covered by the Jackson, Macon and Swain Cattleman’s Association. Until that happens I will cover livestock requests for Jackson and Swain counties. I realize the livestock folks have been without an agent to help them, so we will do our best to serve them in the future because livestock is very important to our two counties agriculturally.

Q: What special areas of interest do you bring to the job of director?

A: My interests are in community and leadership development, in which I provide facilitation and educational programs to help individuals and both public and private businesses to advance their business and mission through improving their leadership skills. Customer service and hospitality education is another interest of mine in working with the businesses in both counties. Another major interest is conservation education with the youth of both counties, and my goal is to help the youth learn to enjoy, appreciate and respect our great natural resources in the two counties.

Q: What is the overall goal of your office staff?

A: Extension educational programming and (answering) individual requests are our means for effectiveness and strength in Jackson and Swain counties. Our extension staff believes in being out in the community helping others learn how to help themselves, which helps makes better communities in both counties.

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