Powell retiring after long career leading Pike County 4-H’ers

Published 7:25 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

The face of Pike County 4-H is changing.

After 26 years with the Pike County Extension System, Tammy Powell has announced her retirement, effective March 31, 2010.

The Pike County Extension coordinator brushed away a few tears as she talked about the decision that was not easily reached.

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“This has been a perfect job for me,” Powell said. “I could not have asked for anything better. I dearly love what I do. There is not a part of the Extension program that I won’t miss. The hardest part will be leaving the people, especially the young people, and there have been so many of them. And, it has been an honor for me to serve them.”

When she officially retires, Powell will have been with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for 33 years and four months.

She worked with the Extension System for seven years in Jackson County before transferring to Pike County.

“I have been involved in 4-H for just about all my life,” Powell said.

“When I was about three years old, I can remember sitting on a bale of hay and watching my mother and daddy help some boys build a 4-H exhibit at the Peanut Festival in Dothan.”

Powell’s mother taught fifth grade at Wicksburg and volunteered with the 4-H program.

“I learned at an early age that 4-H is a family-based program,” she said. “So, I’ve formed many wonderful and lasting friendships with the parents and other family members of our 4-H’ers.”

Powell said her husband, Eddie, and daughter, Heather, have been very involved in the Pike County 4-H program and have been extremely supportive of her commitment to it.

“Eddie has loaded about as many boxes as I have,” she said, laughing. “And, Heather wanted to be involved in 4-H. I didn’t push her in that direction.”

Powell’s job has not been all about working with young people. She has also had many opportunities to work with adults by providing them with researched-based information that is vital to farmers and homemakers.

“You can find just about anything on the Internet but there are only a few places where you can find research-based documentation for the answers to many questions and the Extension System is one of those places,” she said.

As much as Powell has enjoyed working with the Extension agents and employees, the volunteers and other community servants, she always goes back to the young people, who are at the core of her heart.

When Powell came to Pike County, there were 18 4-H clubs with 600 members. Today, there are 60 clubs with 1,740 4-H’ers.

Powell attributes the growth to the fact that the 4-H program has kept up with the times.

“We have been willing to change and meet the needs of young people in today’s world,” Powell said. “Four-H is an education-based program and there’s no way to put a price tag on the education provided to young people through its many programs. They allow young people many opportunities to expand and grow.” Powell said often times people don’t realize that 4-H projects, exhibits and demonstrations are merely vehicles for young people to try.

“They have opportunities to try new things and expand their knowledge and, also, to fail in a safe environment,” she said. “Trying is a learning experience. We want our 4-H’ers to know that they are winners just for trying. If you don’t try, you’ve never had that experience.”

Over the years working with young people, Powell said she has developed patience but her tolerance level has plummeted.

“On the bottom of all my correspondence regarding trips, I write in big, bold letters: If you can’t follow Tammy Powell’s rules, stay home.”

“And 99.9 percent of the time, I’m not disappointed,” she said. “I want our 4-H’ers to be on their best behavior and to be the best possible representatives of our county.

“There’s no ‘I’ in team but there is in unity,” she said. “I want us always to display a cooperative spirit. I want our 4-H’ers to lead by example … and I hope that I have led by example.”

Powell said each of the thousands of 4-H’ers who have come through the Pike County program in her 26 years have touched her life.

“Each person, who has gone in and out of my life, has touched it in some way,” she said. “There’s not one 4-H’er who has not touched my life. And, I have been richly blessed by the touch.”

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said that Powell has been a tremendous asset, not to just to the students in his school system, but to all the students she has mentored in Pike County.

“Tammy has been a jewel to be around, and I appreciate the work that she had done with the many kids over the years,” he said. “We have great participation in the 4-H programs and that is due primarily to Tammy’s influence.”

No one knows that better than Lydia Sexton, who has been a volunteer with the 4-H program for about 22 years.

“Tammy is 4-H in Pike County,” Sexton said. “She was the one who got me involved in 4-H, and the reason was her enthusiasm for the program. Everything that she does is for the kids. She gets them motivated and involved. All of my children have been involved in 4-H and have benefited from it. My oldest son, Scott, has taken advantage of every leadership opportunity and, if it had not been for 4-H and Tammy’s leadership, I don’t know that he would have accomplished all the things he has and done all of the things he has.”

Scott Sexton agreed with his mother. “She’s like a second mother to me,” Sexton said. “Four-H has been a big part of my life and Mrs. Powell has been a great influence in my life. I’m a better person because of her, and Pike County is a better place. I know that I would not be where I am today if it had not been for her.”

There are hundreds of other young people who could say the same, said R.G. Goodson, Pike County commissioner.

“Tammy has done an outstanding job with all the youth in the county,” he said. “My sons competed in the calf programs, and that’s where they learned responsibility. They are better citizens because of what they learned in 4-H and from Tammy’s influence. She is an outstanding leader and what makes her such a good leader is that she takes every child to heart. She had touched the lives of many children.”

Dana Thrash said Powell broadened the world for her and hundreds of others.

“She made our world a bigger place by the things she had us do and the places she took us,” Thrash said.

“No matter where we went or what we did, she was with us every step of the way. That’s meant the world to us.”