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Peggy Bledsoe

Personnel Profiles

Peggy Bledsoe

Peggy Bledsoe's career has changed and grown along with the Houston County Extension Coordinator.

Bledsoe first joined the University of Georgia Extension family as a new Georgia Southern graduate back in August of 1968. "I started as a trainee in Butts County where I worked for a month and then I trained for two weeks in Pike County before going to Talbot County as the 4-H and FCS agent," she said.

Seven years later, Bledsoe transferred to Houston County as the FCS agent. She worked in that position until 1979 when she decided to take on a new role in her life – motherhood.

"David Mills (retired Houston County Extension coordinator) brought me back in 1986 as an educator with the occupant safety education grant," she said. "I promoted the use of seatbelts and child safety seats."

Bledsoe worked in that part-time position for two years. Next, she and Jan Christian broke new ground by sharing the FCS agent position in Houston County for five years.

"It was a great opportunity because we both had young children. We both had certain days we worked and we ran separate programs. We basically were two independent agents working together to fulfill program needs," she said. "It gave me an opportunity to have my career and still be able to be on the Westfield school board and the parent-teacher association and do a host of other things I couldn't have done as a full-time employee."

Bledsoe transitioned once again into a full time agent in 1994 before being named Houston County's first female coordinator in 1996. Her new position came with new responsibilities, including balancing a budget.

"The first thing I had to do was develop the budget for our office. And it was due within a few weeks," she said. "That was a little overwhelming. And, oddly, I just turned in my budget yesterday."

Bledsoe says that first budget was much easier to develop than her recent one. "Now we are trying so hard to hold expenses down, yet be effective. This makes budget development more difficult," she said. "That first year, there was money available. Now we have to be as lean as possible."

In her FCS role, Bledsoe has led numerous programs but she is especially proud of the food safety education program which utilizes the ServSafe® curriculum. The Houston County program trains both food service employees and manager and has earned national recognition.

"That program definitely stands out. We collaborate with the local health department, school system and food service entities. This training helps everyone in the community because so many people eat out," she said. "We depend on these establishments to serve safe food to our families."

Being the county agent in the county that's home to the Georgia National Fair comes with its share of fair responsibilities. Bledsoe helped establish the first Georgia Living Catalog which lists all entries eligible for judging. "The original catalog was a printed piece and now it's available online."

She also helps with various fair events and youth competitions like public speaking, egg preparation and pizza preparation.

Bledsoe also enjoys a close relationship with Houston Health Care. "We team up to offer health and nutrition workshops and community events like Senior Adult Camp. They are a tremendous promoter of Walk Georgia," she said. "I don't think we can have too many people promoting the services that Extension offers. We have a new generation out there that’s often not aware of Extension programs."

And, she's proud to be the birth county of Georgia 4-H's Operation Military Kids camp. The first two years of military kids camp were held at Robins Air Force Base before the program went statewide.

"And it's always nice to run into parents whose kids have benefited from an Extension program. One father stopped me in the library and said my wash-your-hands program really had an impact on his kids. He said, 'They wash their hands all the time now.'"

Outside of the workplace, Bledsoe enjoys visiting the Georgia mountains, container gardening, collecting antiques and leading her church's hospitality committee.

In honor and memory of her mother, Bledsoe has worked with the American Cancer Society and was on the Relay for Life board for three years. "I lost my mother to cancer when I was 16," she said. "No 16-year-old needs to lose their mother at such a young age."

The Houston County Extension office is located on the third floor of the old courthouse building where Bledsoe occupies the corner office. "They tease me about having the corner office, but it was long time coming."

Peggy BledsoePeggy's Strangest Extension Telephone Call

"A client called to say she had blue pickles and she wanted to know if they were safe to eat. She didn't have any cheesecloth so she put her spices in blue pantyhose. I had to make a few calls, because those dyes aren't necessarily safe for foods.

And the other was 'How do you plant a coconut? Eyes up or eyes down?' I turned that one over to the ag agent."

 

(Written by Sharon Dowdy, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Released April 2011.

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