Kathryn Friday retiring from Extension office

Kathryn FridayKathryn Friday retires this week, but no one who knows her believes she will remain quietly at home for long.

It’s Friday who taught at Marengo Academy for 28 years, five of them as headmaster, and four of those as mayor of Linden at the same time, two very high stress jobs.

Friday took two years off to rest and recuperate. She then applied “on a whim” for the job as coordinator of the Marengo County Extension Service.

Without a background in home economics or agriculture, Friday was surprised when she was offered the job. Her hiring reflected the changes going on in Extension. Now the focus has expanded to community and economic development.

She was the first person hired as a county coordinator who wasn’t already with the service. ”They were trying something different. If you’re going to fit the needs of the people you have to move with the times.”

Now, after 10 years and four months on the job, she is retiring with a long list of projects and programs that have been started under her watch and with national and regional accolades.

“It was the best decision I’ve ever made professionally,” she said.

Friday readily admits that when she took the job she knew about 10 percent of the scope of Extension services. “I had no idea how much they do for the people of Alabama,” she said.

“Because I was new and had different ideas I automatically thought outside the box. I didn’t know what the box was.”

Working for economic development became one of the most important aspects of her job. She has worked closely with the Economic Community Development Institute at Auburn University in trying to educate Extension about economic development and the service’s role in it.

Her cooperation with Brenda Tuck, the director of the Economic Development Authority of Marengo County, led to the proudest achievement of Friday’s career with the Extension service – the facility that the county’s Extension shares with the EDA and the partnership that developed between the two.

When the former National Guard Armory closed, Friday and Tuck were convinced that the building could be used to the county’s advantage. The result was the Marengo County Business Development Center.

“This idea came together after one week,” said Friday.

With the support of the county commission and numerous grants that Tuck wrote approaching a half million dollars, their vision became reality.

Their efforts were applauded two months ago when Friday received the first place award for the project from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals.

It was the perfect example of teamwork, she said, and a positive image for the county.

The center can draw on all the resources of Auburn University to help businesses start, grow and develop, Friday continued.

“Economic development is a process, not an event,” she continued. Projects may take years to come to fruition. “When you’re in a small rural area, you’ve got to put resources together.”

The center also became the first facility in the state to sport the new Cooperative Extension logo.

Extension in Marengo County offers many other services such as its leadership programs both locally and with the state. Friday said leaders from the county take part in the Alabama Community Leadership Network, exchanging ideas and holding workshops.

Included in leadership training is the YouthLEAD program that has proven a success. It isn’t just for the student who is a leader but for the student who wants to be one, said Friday.

Other programs now offered by the Extension office are some that traditionally have been a part of the service: horticulture and home grounds, agronomy for farmers, livestock care for all ages and forestry and wildlife. Family and child development has expanded to include marriage and care-giving.

Friday said 4-H is growing rapidly in the county thanks to decisions made by a team set up to oversee the program. The number of students enrolled last year doubled, and even more are expected to join this fall.

Nutrition Education Program (NEP) is set up for applicants and recipients of Food Stamps, but it includes healthy eating events for third graders and food safety. Extension offers ServeSafe training. That saves local restaurants the time and expense of sending their employees elsewhere for training.

Started this year is a shooting program – both BB guns and archery – made possible because of the facilities in the former armory building.

Other programs include financial management, which will be presented in schools this fall, and a sexual abstinence program given to sixth graders with parental permission.

As a cheerleader for Extension, Friday said a lot of what her office does is to arrange training sessions. “The more who come the better,” she said. “We try to buy everything we can in Marengo County.”

Friday isn’t sure what she and her husband Joe will be doing after she finally clears out her office. Travel is possible since they both enjoy it, and, of course, taking time to see grandchildren in Birmingham and Baton Rouge.

“I have one of the most supportive husbands in the world, or I couldn’t have done all these things,” Friday added.

She expects to continue working with leadership programs and on the committee that is planning events to mark the 200th anniversary of Marengo County in 2018.

Being a Master Gardener, Friday will continue to write her weekly column that runs in local newspapers.

The Fridays have lived in Linden for 45 years. “I love this area. We haven’t even thought about moving,” she said. “Marengo County is a good place to live because people get along.”