Louise Williams honored for 40 years of service

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Louise Williams honored for 40 years of service with the Cooperative Extension Service in Mississippi County. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Louise Williams was honored on Friday, June 2, with a surprise drop-in hosted by her co-workers in recognition of her 40 years of service with the Cooperative Extension Service.

Williams has worked in the same office for four decades making many friends. Co-workers presented her with a card and treasure chest filled for 40 $1 coins.

She has worked with numerous agents and for four chairs, Mark Bryles, Keith Martin, Dave Freeze, and currently Ray Benson.

She was in the office when Benson was working with the cotton scouting program. At one time the Cooperative Extension Service hired cotton scouts to oversee thousands of acres.

“We had great kids working in our scouting program, she said. “They were all good. They still stop in once in a while and visit. They are surprised to see me still here.”

Many cotton scouts went on to become crop consultants in the area.

Scouting is not part of the services today but the office still works closely with farmers and residents throughout the county to meet the needs.

When it comes to talking about her years with The Cooperative Extension Service, no one could be better to tell the story than Williams, herself.

The following is remembrances by: Louise F. Williams.

My Journey

On Oct. 21, 19977, I entered the doors of the Cooperative Extension Service. I was greeted by a warm and gracious staff. The office was under the leadership of Mr. Mark Bryles whole title was County Extension Agent – Staff Chair. He introduced me to everyone and asked me to follow him into his office so that he could give me further insight concerning the Cooperative Extension Service. I tried very hard not to show how nervous I was.

Mr. Bryles began to tell me the history of the Cooperative Extension Service and how it began. I've always been fascinated by history of any sort, so it wasn't long before my nervousness disappeared. I found myself captivated by the information Mrs. Bryles provided.

Then he informed me of the duties that were assigned to my position as a Stenographer I. I was beaming with joy because I was finally getting the opportunity to work in an area that I had seemingly trained for all of my life. Mr. Bryles further calmed my fears by saying, “Louise don't be frightened by all that I have shared with you this morning, for no one is expected to know all in one day, one week, nor one year.” Over the years I found that statement to be so very true. I adopted the saying and shared it with all of the new employees that followed me.

The mission of the University of Arkansas – Division of Agriculture System (name changed in recent years) is to strengthen agriculture, communities and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. That's a short statement that is supported by hundreds of individuals, who work so very hard to deliver the best service in all 75 counties located in Arkansas.

Over the 40 years I have worked in the Mississippi County Extension Office, I have seen the hard work of the young men and women that journeyed throughout Mississippi County in an effort to fulfill the agency's mission. The volume of requests the staff receives on a daily basis is astounding! A farmer may call from Dyess requesting an agent visit his field to discuss a problem with insects, minutes later, the same agent may be asked to travel tot he Huffman area to discuss irrigation with another farmer. In one day, an agent may travel a hundred or more miles just in the County. In addition, job obligations will often dictate travel to other regions in the state.

We also have agents whose mission is to reach families with the latest information on nutrition and good health, smart shopping and keeping fit through exercise. There is also the 4-H Youth Program. The main focus of this program is that of developing youth for their role as adults. I remember being a part of 4-H when I was a youth. In my opinion, there is no other youth program that offers as much to the development of our children as the 4-H program.

Those who render leadership to our organization make sure each employee is equipped with the latest research and information in the areas he or she is asked to perform. The entire staff is trained on new and innovative practices continuously. This includes the support staff in which I am proud to be a part of.

In my 40 year tenure, I have been honored to experience so many changes, all to make the lives of the people we serve better. I look back in amazement at the tools and equipment that we used over the years to perform our tasks. When I started in 1977, my title was “Stenographer I.” As a stenographer, I was summoned by any of the agents to take “dictation.” The job entailed entering the office with a pen and notepad in hand. The agent verbally provided you the information, as he or see did this, the stenographer, using expert skills and shorthand, wrote the letter on the pad. At the end of a session, there could be one to ten letters that had to be typed, neatly, free of errors, and they were expected on the transcriber's desk within the hour. There were no computers (not in the Extension Office) in 1977.

Frequently, we had to do mass mailouts. In 1977, we did not have a commercial copier, and printers were not heard of! What we had were the “Ditto” machines and the much dreaded Gestetner. I won't bother explaining hos those machines had to be prepared before use. I'll just say, you needed a covering to protect your clothing. I look back with so much appreciation. Because of that humble beginning, I am so grateful for the conveniences of today.

Working in this small office, I met many wonderful people with such big hearts. The Mississippi County Extension Office is not like any other

place of employment. We are not only fellow employees, we are and have been for the last 40 years, a family. My fellow employees and their families are close friends. We celebrated each special occasions that includes marriages, births, promotions, and graduations. We also came together to comfort and support those who lost loved ones. I was so fortunate to have the support of my co-workers when my husband of 38 years, Charles, passed away last November. They went above and beyond to comfort and support me.

I am so proud of the work that is performed by the men and women that represents the University of Arkansas – Division of Agriculture Systems. We have been referred to as the “best kept secret.” Efforts are being made to break out of that box and let all of Arkansas know what Extension has to offer; and the best part of that is all the work we provide to our city, county, and state is free. My personal goal is to do my part to educate all that pass my way, on the services this great organization provided.

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