Extension coordinator to retire

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, May 2, 2019

LaFAYETTE — Ken McMillian is looking forward to cooking meals for his wife, riding his motorcycle and visiting family in Florida and Boston in retirement.

McMillian has spent the past four years as the Chambers County Extension Coordinator through Auburn University. 

“God just told me it’s time,” McMillian said. “I’ve really been blessed.”

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McMillian retired from the military 19 years ago and went to work in Auburn in the extension office. It was there where he became familiar with writing grants in the business office, but he felt he wanted to do more. He wanted to be involved in helping a community grow.

The coordinator job in Chambers County opened in 2015, and he went for it.

As coordinator, one of the biggest projects that brought him the most pride was obtaining a Center for Disease Control grant through Auburn University to help combat high obesity rates. Chambers County was one of 14 Alabama counties above a 40 percent threshold to obtain the grant.

The extension office focused its efforts on LaFayette by providing educational programming about eating healthier and engaging in physical activity. He said the office helped facilitate the construction of two community gardens — one behind LaFayette High School and the other at the Chambers County Agricultural Arena.

Additionally, his office helped to establish a LaFayette Farmer’s Market, install exercise equipment at the arena as well as a walking trail at the arena with help from various county departments.

McMillian said his office also worked with LaFayette High School to renovate its agriculture building to a new weight room. He said there are new ceiling, flooring, lighting, paint and HVAC systems in the building. There’s also new weight equipment that is geared toward men and women.

“Before, it was all geared toward football players and the ladies didn’t have anything,” he said.

The role of the extension office is to take the academic research from Auburn University and apply it to people’s everyday lives.

Another major grant his office helped to obtain was through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), to help restore Moore’s Creek, which runs through Lanett and Valley. The project was awarded a grant for $500,000 by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to restore a section of the creek near Veterans Memorial Parkway. The project was awarded another grant in January to stabilize a part of the creek outside Valley City Hall and a section near the Chambers County Emergency Management Agency building in Lanett.

McMillian said obtaining grants to help fund projects took the majority of his time.

His last day of work will be May 17 as the extension office will have a Student Field Day to teach students of several schools about project practices, water quality, wildlife and other environmental activities.

“I think I’m looking forward to a few new things,” McMillian said.

He said he wants to spend more time cooking, riding his new motorcycle, visiting his new grandson in Florida and seeing his daughter in Boston.

However, he said he’ll never forget the relationships he made while working with individuals throughout the county, especially those working for the county.

“They have been phenomenal partners,” McMillian said. “I know their hearts from working with them over this period.”