QUINCY -- Earl Bricker sees his career in West-Central Illinois coming full circle as he retires next month from University of Illinois Extension.
Back in 2002, Bricker began working as an Extension community and economic development educator in rural Adams County and Mount Sterling, and one of his projects was a precursor to Action Brown County. After retiring June 29, he'll head back to ABC as its part-time executive director.
"It will be fun to work with that group again," he said.
Bricker also plans to work part time for Two Rivers Regional Council, helping implement the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy in seven Western Illinois counties and do consulting and training with nonprofit organizations.
Bricker hopes he's made a contribution working with Extension, serving as county director for Unit 14 -- covering Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties -- since 2014. But at 66, "there's no way to wind down in the role of county director," he said. "Having somebody with some different skill sets and tools to bring to the table will be good for the unit."
Extension Region 2 Regional Director Ryan Hobson expects to name an interim county director -- potentially a county director in a neighboring unit or a "piecemeal" approach used previously between Hobson and on-staff educators in the unit.
Extension plans a four-week national search to fill the county director's job. Hobson expects interviews to be done about mid-July.
"Earl will be missed," he said. "He's provided great leadership to the unit, been very engaged in the community. He's a good fit for a county director."
Bricker said the timing of the transition could help both the interim and the new hire.
"The county director's involvement with 4-H fairs is always peripheral," Bricker said. "I intend to have the budget submitted, other key things done. Hopefully the next person will be able to slide in rather than just jump right in."
Bricker's work with Extension also included overseeing a statewide program, Community Assessment and Development Services, for three years. He left Extension to be the first director of community impact for the United Way of Adams County, then came back for the county director's post.
"Altogether I have worked for Extension for 13 years, a lucky number in this instance. It has been my pleasure every step along the way," he said. "After more than 100 years, Extension continues to adapt to the needs of communities, and the role it plays is no less important now than it has been in the past."
Bricker will leave hopeful for the organization with Kimberlee Kidwell, U of I's dean of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, embracing Extension as a key player in her college and investing in its future.
Locally, Bricker hopes to see Extension re-establish the connection to the ag community lost when Mike Roegge retired in April 2016 and finances did not allow filling the position.
"Extension has so much to bring to the table as an organization in terms of expertise and various disciplines. Locally we're dependent on what we can afford," he said. "We owe a lot to the local funders, the county boards, for their support. Their support kind of kept us afloat."