The former ISU Extension Education Director for Calhoun County, Chizek is building relationships with the nine-member elected extension council and county office staff in each of the six counties.
"After that we'll need to find out who our local partners are and find out what they think Extension's role can be," Chizek said, "as together they determine local needs for ISU Extension educational programs."
"Some programs need a critical mass of people -- you just need a larger audience," Chizek said, "and that's why a regional approach makes sense."
"It's a time for all of us to work across county lines and an opportunity to put together our resources to get a bigger bang for our buck," he remarked.
The six county councils met together in late June, just after Chizek had been announced as Regional Director, to get a head start on tackling regional issues. They'll meet again in September and plan to meet quarterly.
The regional meetings are open to everyone on the county councils, Chizek noted. He'd like each council to send two or three different people to each session so everyone gets a chance to get to know each other -- and build relationships.
He's also continuing relationships with the ISU Extension program specialists who serve the six counties.
"As we reshuffle the deck of Extension we'll work with some of those same folks and come up with programs we can conduct in the region," Chizek said.
When Ida, Sac and Calhoun counties experienced severe hail damage Aug. 9, Sac County Extension Education Director Tom Duncan and ISU Extension Field Agronomist Mark Licht organized two hail damage meetings for crop producers on Aug. 13. They covered topics such as how long to wait to harvest hail-damaged crops as silage and what value producers can expect if they wait to harvest as grain.
"It shows that Extension still has the flexibility to address immediate needs when Mother Nature wields her power. Extension is alive and well and able to address those immediate needs," Chizek said.
ISU Extension supports healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies, and the emphasis remains on county extension, he remarked.
"The county office is still the access point to Iowa State University. Yes, we're in a region, but things are still happening at the local level," Chizek said, from farmland leasing meetings to Master Gardener programs to "eat and educate" workplace seminars.
Chizek served as Calhoun County director since 1998. Previously he had taught high school agricultural education for 18 years. He received a bachelor's degree and master's degree in agricultural education from Iowa State University.
He and his wife, Pam, live in Manson. They have three adult children and one grandson. He's a volunteer with the Calhoun County conservation board, the Manson parks board and other local entities.