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Building a stronger Missouri Extension Council

Photo by Christy Porter
Newly elected Texas County University of Missouri Extension council members took their oath from County Clerk Laura Crowley Thursday evening. Pictured from left are: Ross Richardson, Diane Pierce, Elaine Campbell, (seated is current member, Marie Lasater), Victoria Johns. Not present was new member Ben McCloy.


By Christy Porter, Managing Editor

The University of Missouri Extension Council held their annual meeting on Thursday evening at the Lone Star Plaza Annex Community Room in Houston. While many of their meetings and classes have been held via Zoom during the pandemic, this meeting included the swearing in of newly elected council members and so was held in person with social distancing.

The newly elected council members are: Victoria Johns, Ben McCloy, Diane Pierce, Ross Richardson and Elaine Campbell. They serve along with second-year-term members, which include: Rob Harrington, Marie Lasater, Allen Moss, Terry Dawson, Vanessa Haneline and Tina Heusler, and appointed members: John Casey, Texas County Commission; Robert Rouse, Farm Bureau; and Benn Cook, Student Representative. The council seeks to fulfill the Extension mission to improve Missourians’ lives. They do this by addressing the highest priorities for Texas County citizenship and offering the opportunity to apply research-based knowledge to their enterprises.

The desire to do so is expressed by Robert Harrington, “I believe first and foremost our priority is to bring the University of Missouri and its experts to our communities. From entrepreneurship, agriculture, financial and health issues, the University can provide much needed expertise in these areas.”

Photo by Christy Porter
Brandi Richardson, Texas County Engagement Specialist presented the orientation for newly elected council members.

Texas County Engagement Specialist Brandi Richardson opened the meeting and made introductions before explaining the responsibilities and the role of the council members. County Clerk Laura Crowley swore in the newly elected council members, followed by retiring Chair Elaine Campbell, who conducted the business meeting. Newly appointed officers were appointed: Chair, Rob Harrington; Vice-Chair, Marie Lasater; Treasurer, Vanessa Haneline; and Secretary, Elaine Campbell.

After the adjournment of the business meeting, attendees were invited to view the facilities and get acquainted with each other.

The council was created to work with the university through programs, governance and membership. Their duties include:

  • Oversee all activities of University of Missouri Extension at the county level;
  • Work with the county commission as it prepares the local budget and obtains county funds to finance the county educational program;
  • Approve the assignment of Extension specialists headquartered in the county;
  • Elect and organize the local extension council;
  • Represent the residents of the county, both with their ideas, and your contributions and enthusiasm as a council member;
  • Work with the officers of the council by informing them of current needs and wishes and active participation in council meetings; and
  • Be willing to involve oneself in activities that will benefit others.

Helping the residents of Texas County at the local extension office located in Houston are County Engagement Specialist Brandi Richardson, Office Manager Linda Wrinkles, Regional Field Specialist Eric Meusch, Nutrition Educator Dana McGuire and support staff Johanna Avery. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, the educational opportunities and assistance provided by the extension are too numerous to mention. Programs encompass Agriculture and Environment, Dairy and Beef, Youth and Families, and Business and Communities. This includes development, Health and Safety, and Nutrition including with schools, farmers markets and food pantries, 4-H Youth, SNAP, the Master Gardener and Missouri Century Farm programs, and as a liaison with other Agriculture Specialists to help fulfill local needs.

“As a local farmer and a member of the community, I believe knowledge and informative programs are important to our success, not only currently but also in raising and maintaining our future generations. I want to help bring awareness to the many programs the extension has to offer, as well as introducing these programs to the younger generations,” Vanessa Haneline expresses her desire to benefit others.

Allen Moss voices generational experience with the extension office, “I am familiar with the work of the council as my grandmother worked for many years at the Howell County Extension office. I have seen the benefit to the local school districts. And having a small farm in recent years I see the benefit from that as well.”

From long-term personal experience Elaine Campbell shares, “I became a part of the Texas County Extension when I was 10 years old as a 4-H member. My children were in 4-H, and I worked with the Extension during my adult life. As lifelong residents of Texas County, my husband and I own a farm with a herd of beef cattle and have used their services. I know the value of not only agriculture, but gardening, health services and family services provided by the council.”

The University of Missouri Extension is a unique partnership among federal, state and local governments. This partnership allows flexibility in programs, innovation in its approach to administration, and the ability to assess societal trends and educational needs for the people it serves. It is most visible at the county level. Newly elected member Diane Pierce shares the hope that her involvement “will help maintain a strong presence for the extension in the county and build strong alliances with other agencies.”

The Texas County Extension staff is available to address questions and offer guidance Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., by calling 417-967-4545 or by viewing the website at

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