A newly created position with the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service is aimed at furthering the institution’s efforts to serve communities throughout the Bluegrass State.

Former McCracken County Cooperative Extension Office manager Robert Tashjian took the post of area director at the start of January, from which he’ll oversee extension operations in McCracken, Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon and Marshall counties (all of which comprise West Areas 1 and 2 in UK’s administrative organization).

Tashjian worked as a 4-H Youth Development agent in McCracken County for 21 years before transitioning to county manager, a position he held for three years before being hired for this new post.

“I’m really looking forward to this new chapter in Extension,” Tashjian told The Sun Monday. “Agents are getting to be more in touch with their area extension director on a personal level. It’s going to enable the (extension) agents to have a direct line of communication with the state.

“That’ll make things a whole lot better for our smaller counties, and especially folks out here in western Kentucky.”

Anna Porter, the West Regional director for UK’s Cooperative Extension Service, is happy to have Tashjian on her team because of his “extensive knowledge and experience” in the Extension field that will enable him to strengthen the institution’s administrative engagement with the counties by “(working) directly with local leadership and (providing) a county-focused supervision,” as well as mentoring the CES’s staff.

“Beginning on the county level as County Extension Agent in McCracken County, Robert understands county operations, broad based programming and outreach, working with local leadership and financial operations,” she wrote in a statement to The Sun. “Later serving as the County Manager for McCracken County his knowledge and experience grew in leadership, accountability, project management, supervision and day-to-day operations, all important roles of his major job responsibilities as a new Area Extension Director.

“We are so excited to have Robert as a member of the new administrative structure and feel he will be an instrumental part of our overall positive development and success.”

His hiring is part of a statewide administrative reorganization on the part of the institution, shifting away from the county manager set-up to this area director system. Tashjian will be overseeing extension agents of all stripes throughout the 11 counties, helping to provide the organizational leadership that will enable those offices to do agricultural, nutrition, family support and youth leadership and communications programming.

In addition to coordinating the agents, Tashjian will be working with extension district boards to advise on projects, aiding with the budgeting process in those counties, helping with the search for grant funding, interfacing with area volunteers to gauge community needs and meeting with volunteers, along with several other duties.

“It’s not just supervising agents, it’s supervising support staff, it’s actually getting to work with communities to maybe build new buildings or hire more staff or create walking trails or finding grants that help them or carrying successful programs from one county to another,” he said. “I am that extension cord, coming from UK and bringing these things to each and every one of our counties so that all of volunteers have a voice that can be heard and it’s a better line of communication.”