QUINCY -- University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Kari Houle is leaving her job in Adams, Brown, Hancock, Pike and Schuyler counties for a move to Iowa.
"I love what I do," said Houle, whose last day will be Wednesday, just three days shy of her sixth anniversary with Extension Unit 14.
Houle said she will miss the people she met and developed relationships with in Unit 14 but she's excited about the move.
"I got engaged over Christmas to a wonderful man," she said. "He owns an established business in Iowa, in Cedar Falls, and it made more sense for me to move there."
Extension Region 2 Regional Director Ryan Hobson said any decisions about Houle's position will be made after a new county director is hired to replace Earl Bricker, who retired June 29. The search process continues to fill that job.
"Nobody has been hired. No offer has been made," Hobson said. "Those things take time, but I would say sometime in the next two to three weeks, there ought to be something come out of it."
Hobson plans to meet with the new director and the unit's Extension Council to determine "where we're at and where we need to go" through a needs assessment.
"We'll see where we're at as far as fiscal responsibility to see if we can afford an educator, and if so, what discipline should it be," Hobson said.
Houle said she hopes if her position is filled with someone in horticulture or something related that the new person will be able to "step in and pick up the reins" in the Unit 14 counties, where she was the first horticulture educator hired.
"Just be open-minded, get to know people," she said. "Be creative. Don't think that an idea won't work. Always give something a chance. That's how new ideas get started and really great programs."
The Chicago-area native worked with a variety of programs, including Master Gardeners and the Gardener's Palette, and she was one of the writers of the "Good Growing" column that appears in The Herald-Whig and other publications.
Houle plans to resume work on a webpage and blog to continue sharing her passion for horticulture along with information and knowledge while continuing to search for a job in Iowa.
"It was either sell the house or find a job. The house came first," she said. "We'll see where life takes us."
Houle already has a garden planted at her new home and discovered that her fiance, Cory Koger, has a green thumb.
"He's handy and builds things, and he helps in the kitchen," she said. "It's going to be great. My plant-loving heart is thrilled."