The retirement of Bob Salzer as director of the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension in Durango on Feb. 2 started a round of musical chairs.
Darrin Parmenter, the office's horticulturist in La Plata County since July 2007, has replaced Salzer as director with the exception of the county 4-H program.
La Plata County has hired Salzer to keep 4-H going through the annual County Fair, which this year will be held Aug. 5-9. It's not known if he will stay on, Parmenter said. Salzer, who apparently will keep his office at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, wasn't available for comment Wednesday. He will return to work Tuesday.
"The county could keep Salzer in the same capacity, but CSU isn't planning to replace him immediately because of the hiring freeze imposed in November," Parmenter said. "All counties that have an extension office with open positions are facing the same situation."
No one was immediately available Wednesday at CSU headquarters in Fort Collins to say how many open extension positions exist statewide.
Parmenter said 4-H is important to La Plata County youths. About 300, ages 5 to 17, participate in 4-H programs, he said.
When the extension office in Durango is fully staffed, Colorado State University has three extensions agents in La Plata County - Parmenter, who will focus on horticulture and natural resources in addition to his duties as director; Wendy Rice in consumer and family sciences; and the open 4-H position.
"I'll be the face of extension in the community," Parmenter said. "I want to make extension visible because some people don't utilize it or don't even know what it is.
"My overall vision for extension in La Plata County is expand its presence and remain viable and visible," Parmenter said. "It's important to modernize the extension through new ideas, new programs and new directions. Budget constraints make our survival dependent on the ability to be inventive."
The CSU Cooperative Extension is a community connection to university research, information, education and youth programs, Parmenter said. Extension expertise contributes to natural-resource management, gardening, agricultural production technology and family issues such as nutrition, child rearing and money management.
"I enjoy developing programs and workshops that help farmers be better farmers," Parmenter said. "I helped organize the Farmer-Chef Connection, the Iron Horse Chef competition at the Durango Farmers Market and the Homegrown Festival, all of which educate the public about the benefits of supporting local agriculture."
Parmenter, whose family has been in the area for three generations, was born in Durango and graduated from Durango High School in 1990. He received an undergraduate degree in horticulture from Montana State University in 1999 and a master's degree in the same field from Cornell University in 2003. He was a University of Florida extension agent in Palm Beach County until he returned to La Plata County two years ago.
Parmenter and his wife, Andrea, have a son and a daughter.