November 21, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Much focus is being placed on community development in the Commonwealth. Government, civic and education leaders are noticing the value of programs that promote economic growth and citizen involvement in community issues.

To provide further support in this area, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recently hired Tim Campbell, the state's first Extension agent exclusively devoted to community and economic development. As a former meteorologist and Air National Guardsman, Campbell had a variety of careers that led him to where he is now in Pike County. While serving with the Guard, he earned a doctorate in economic history.

Campbell will be working to resolve local issues in Pike County with objective information and educational assistance. He will help communities develop leadership potential and determine long-range programs of action on such issues as economic development, community service, land use, business retention and expansion, solid waste and community resource management.

"What's exciting about this new position is that there are no established guidelines," Campbell said. "I believe a healthy community is one where economic security is ensured while preserving a sound, functioning ecosystem, a healthy social environment and with a perpetual focus on prosperity."

Campbell said he sees his new position mainly as a way to initiate and facilitate conversations between different organizations and groups of people in the county.

The interesting thing about community development is covering issues not usually talked about in the field, Campbell said. He's concerned most about youth since he believes they are the future of any community. "Youth are a big component of a community that we serve through the school system," he continued. "And when you do engage youth in helping develop public policy, their enthusiasm and unbounded thinking is remarkable. And sometimes they are better at creating policy than adults."

He added that many rural residents complain about their children leaving the community and not coming back or at least not coming back until they retire from somewhere else. Making the community a place where children can live and work as they get older is important to the community's overall success or failure.

Campbell said another area he's wanting to bring to the development table is an area that is of personal importance to him - gardening, especially the Master Gardner Program.

"I'd like to get a group of people together and just ask them how important a lawn is to their home, their neighborhood, their community," he said. "I'm sure I'd get answers all across the board. There would be people who don't use chemicals and ones who do; those who fertilize and those who don't, and on down the line. Lawns and gardens are just areas that don't usually fit into the normal boundaries of community development but I think they should."

Within his 10 months in Pike County, Campbell already has begun to discover the best things about the area and really work to make those things stand out as something of which the residents can be proud.

"Pike County has a lot going for it," he said. "Take the rich musical heritage for example; it's exceptional. The way I see it is that we need to not focus on our problems, but start looking at our assets."

Campbell hopes his position will be a model for other counties in Kentucky looking to bolster their community and economic development.



Tim Campbell  606-432-2534