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Home News-Telegram News Dairy program specialist with doctoral degree recommended for county Extension agriculture agent

Dairy program specialist with doctoral degree recommended for county Extension agriculture agent

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An adjunct professor with Texas A&M University-Commerce who is also a specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s dairy program has been recommended to be the next Extension agent for agriculture in Hopkins County.

Hurley Miller, administrator for Extension District 4 which includes Hopkins County, met with the County Commissioners Court this morning to discuss Dr. Mario Villarino and the process that led to his recommendation to fill the vacant agriculture agent’s post.

Hopkins County, one of the state’s busier agribusiness areas with more than $200 million in farm products sold in 2007, has been without an ag agent since the end of March, when Larry Spradlin’s retirement became effective. Spradlin had spent the previous 12 years in the post.

The Commissioners Court is slated to present a plaque of appreciation to Spradlin on Monday, which is also the day it is expected they will vote on whether to hire Villarino for the position.

Miller, the district administrator, explained that the county pays about $13,500 of the Extension agent’s annual salary, with other expenses, including benefits, paid for by the Extension service.

He said the Extension service’s policy is to try to fill open positions with current Extension employees.

“Those employees are pretty much ready to hit the ground with little or no training,” Miller said.

Four people from the Extension positions with current Extension employees.

“Those employees are pretty much ready to hit the ground with little or no training,” Miller said.

Four people from the Extension service applied for the Hopkins County agent’s position. All four were interviewed, with the finalists presented to an Extension panel in A&M-College Station, which recommended Villarino.

Miller also said the applicants should have at least a bachelor’s degree and a certain level of expertise and background in the field they are assigned to. Villarino more than qualifies in those areas, as he has a doctoral degree in veterinary microbiology from Texas A&M University-College Station.

He has also held various professional and academic appointments, including professor for veterinary techniques in equine at A&M-Commerce this spring, and has been published in numerous veterinary journals.

He has been with the Extension service for 10 years and is currently an associate with the Extension dairy program. He is based in the Dallas area but travels to all parts of the state for his work on the dairy programs.

While his academic credentials are “just fabulous,” as Precinct 1 Commissioner Beth Wisenbaker said, commissioners also indicated they want to be sure that the county’s next agriculture agent understands that he or she will be working with youths in 4-H and other programs, as well as helping them with projects and events such as the Northeast Texas Livestock Association’s Junior Market Show.

Miller said Villarino, who has children ages 2 and 5, is “very aware” of the requirements of the job, knowing that some days he may be working from 6 a.m. to midnight, and that he could end up working four weekends a month.

“He’s willing to do that,” Miller said.

If the county commissioners find some objection to hiring Villarino, the district administrator added, Extension service officials will be glad to sit down with the county commissioners to discuss their concerns.

 

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