In a Cluster?

My Generation

Announcement of new Extension clusters answers some questions, opens up a new can of worms for many more.

Published on: May 19, 2010

So I was going to start off this post with that quote from Abraham Lincoln, about how you can please some of the people all of the time, etc, etc. But then I looked it up and I'll be darned if that's not the quote. It's actually, "You can fool some of the people all of the time," etc, etc. Which totally doesn't fit with the point I wanted to make.

But I digress.

The point? That when University of Illinois Extension released its map today of the new county cluster configuration, I somehow imagined Extension Director Bob Hoeft feeling like there was no way he could please everyone. No matter what he did.

I asked Bob a couple weeks ago how they would divide up counties, which at that point were in the process of "preffing" their clusters. This, as you can imagine, was a process fraught with inter-county negotiations, phone calls, lobbying and even a little out-and-out "don't you dare put us with THEM." No kidding. Bob said he received two e-mails in the same day, from two different people in the same county, requesting they not be clustered with X county.

"And I had no idea!" he said. "I probably would've put them together!"

And that's why he asked for suggestions. Of course, Vermillion reportedly said under no circumstance did they want to be with Champaign. And now they're with Champaign. So there.

Other noteworthy combinations: Jo Daviess and Carroll, which have operated as a single unit for years, were separated into two different clusters. Check out, too, the giant seven-county cluster in southern Illinois, of Wayne, Hamilton, White, Saline, Gallatin, Pope and Hardin. Clearly, the decisions were made with neighborly and financial considerations - each cluster has to generate at least $350,000 - but you have to wonder how a single office and a few satellite offices will be able to serve seven counties and who-knows-how-many 4-Hers.

So maybe Bob wasn't muttering my mis-quoted Lincoln quote to himself today. But somehow, I bet pleasing some of the people today and not pleasing some of the people today still made for a long day.

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