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Photo: John Parks

Personnel Profiles

John Parks

Gazing out the window of his third-floor Hoke Smith office, John Parks reflects on his long career in Extension.

"I keep the blinds closed so I can't see the sunshine," he said. "Days like today are real difficult." The sun calls to him, asking him to visit farms and breathe fresh air.

For more than 30 years he's earned his paycheck serving Georgia citizens through University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. As his retirement approaches he admits – "I've had the most fun."

After graduating with a degree in agronomy from UGA, Parks began his career at UGA just six months later in January 1978. Starting out as the Walton County 4-H agent and then moving to serve as the only agent in Dawson County, Parks settled in as an ANR agent in Jackson County in 1985.

"Jackson County had a lot of everything back then," he said about his current home. "They still had cotton, poultry, dairy farms and were one of the state leaders in beef cattle."

Jackson County was much different then.

"I've seen a lot of changes in all the counties," Parks said. "The growth has been very dramatic in Dawson and Jackson counties. It's good and it's bad. It is what it is."

When he became the PDC for north Georgia in 2000, Parks traded farm tours for days at the capitol and 4-H club meetings for 4-H state congress. In 2006, he was promoted to his current position as Northeast District Extension Director.

"It sounds like a long time," he said. "When you look at all these different jobs, I had the most fun as a county agent. I like to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and you have that as an agent. There are not a lot of big 'thank you's' out there. But, often you will get thanks from where you least expect it."

One of Parks' favorite things about being a county agent was being able to look at a problem for someone and make a recommendation. If the client followed his advice, he could then watch and see the problem solved.

His favorite feature of county agent work was the flexibility. "This is a unique job. You are not given a task list, you are able to develop your own schedule," he said.

Often mingling farm visits into his daily routine in the county, he enjoyed working with people.

"There are a lot of unusual people out there and they all call the county Extension office," he said. "Some people call with the same problems every year, which never goes away because they don’t follow the recommendation."

Parks still misses making farm visits.

"I made a lot of friends in the counties. It's not like you go off and leave them either, I still have those connections."

Parks officially retires the end of February 2010, although, he will return April 1 part-time, for a while.

"My goal is to get home a little earlier than I do now," he said.

No doubt, some of his new free time will be spent with his new grandson, John David Parks IV.

(Written by April R. Sorrow, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Released March 2010.

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