Careers spent helping things, people grow

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2012 - 2:13 PM

Jayne Hager Dee and Mary Duncomb have guided Extension programs including 4-H for thousands of Dakota residents.

Jayne Hager Dee

One grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the other in the countryside 10 miles south of Hastings.

But Jayne Hager Dee and Mary Duncomb share a lifelong connection to 4-H, from childhood participation in local clubs to careers that kept them involved in the youth development organization.

This week, both women retire from the Dakota County office of the University of Minnesota Extension, where they have shepherded dozens of programs, including 4-H, for the agricultural and suburban community alike.

Dee, a regional director with the Extension Service, leaves after 13 years in the Dakota County office in Farmington.

Duncomb has been with the extension service for 40 years, including 34 in the Dakota County office leading the youth development programs for local 4-H chapters.

"It's been really exciting because you can be creative in figuring out what the needs are in the community and then match that to research from the U to meet those needs," said Duncomb, who still lives near Miesville.

For instance, she launched the Youth Teaching Youth program in 1986 that trains high school kids to teach elementary students about a variety of topics, from bullying to the importance of using seat belts. That program, still in operation, won a national 4-H award and has been copied elsewhere.

Dee, who came to the Farmington office after a career in public service with Iowa State University's extension service, said one of the best things about working with Extension has been building partnerships in the community, with schools, local government, farmers and master gardeners, volunteers and nearly 20,000 participants annually in a variety of youth activities.

Dakota County's 4-H program, with 1,400 kids enrolled in local clubs and scores more participating in school and summer camp programs, is the largest in the state.

"We are part of the university, and in those partnerships we get a lot done and we bring a lot of good to the community," said Dee, a Northfield resident.

Dakota County Commissioner Joe Harris said Dee continued to expand the work of the Dakota County office, even as her regional administration duties expanded to include a swath of counties all the way to the Iowa border.

"She did an excellent service with her administration of the Extension programs, working with the public, things of that nature," he said.

As for Duncomb, he said, she "had an absolute passion that she put into the [4-H] programs.

"She's going to be one of those that when you look back, you say, 'She was a great one,'" Harris said.

Duncomb's replacement has not yet been named.

Because the metro region of the Extension Service has been reorganized, Dee will not be replaced. Her duties will be shared by two other regional directors.

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286

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