A familiar face has returned to Choctaw County. Darrell Banks (pictured right) assumes the role of County County Agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service this month. The Extension Service has a presence in all 82 of Mississippi’s counties.
“It is good to be back in Choctaw Cunty, where the Extension Service has a rich history. I look forward to reconnecting with local leaders in the community and in agriculture and agri-business, area farmers, volunteers, and children, youth, and their parents so I can tailor programs that fit the needs of stakeholders in the county,” said Banks.
He continued, “I’m here for both day-to-day operations and to help answer questions and solve problems – my door will always be open.”
As lead area agent, Banks succeeds Juli Hughes, who retired at the end of June following a nearly 29-year MSU Extension career based in her native Choctaw County.
Banks earlier had the privilege to serve Choctaw County, spending nearly six years as Extension Agent II in the specific area of Agriculture and Natural Resources, working in conjunction with Hughes. He said he was happy to gain invaluable experience and grow in the area and looks forward to now making the lead role of county agent his own.
“I will need the help of a strong volunteer-base, which will be a lifeline for programs and activities, and I encourage anyone who would like to assist to let me know,” Banks said. “Volunteers can help with the wonderful 4-H and other activities that have traditionally been in place; however, we also now have programs that reflect the present-day desires and needs of our children and youth, still focusing on the 5-18 age groups.”
The Extension Service activities now include sports fishing, kayaking, robotics, Lego engineering, and STEM-related activities. And 4-H volunteers help provide training and conduct workshops, contests, and exhibit days to promote youth development at the county level. Banks would love to have a huge representation annually for the 4-H Congress, Project Achievement Day, and with 4-H scholarships.
Most immediately, Banks wants everyone to know he has returned. “I hope to have interactions soon with those leaders and groups across the county who can help strengthen our reach into Ackerman, French Camp, and Weir.”
Moving forward, Banks hopes to continuously be responsive to the needs of the county and its people. Already in place for October is the Master Gardener Scarecrow Trail and the Red Hills Bee Association meeting (both events detailed in the Calendar of Events on page 3).
Most recently, Banks was assigned to the Lowndes County Extension Office located in Columbus as an Extension ANR Agent/4/H, chiefly responsible for 4-H programming. Before that, he worked some four years as an assistant compliance administrator for the Office of Research Compliance at Mississippi State University. He began his career as the recreation director for Rolling Hills Development Center in Starkville, spending 15 years in that role, where he developed, implemented, and evaluated programs for persons with mental retardation and intellectual disabilities, abiding by federal, state, and local compliance.
A native of Starkville, Banks holds two degrees from Mississippi State University. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Sciences in 2010 and a Master of Science in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2011. He is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, the honor society of agriculture.
He and wife, Marenda, an Ohio native and administrative assistant in MSU’s Department of Biological Sciences, have been married 25 years. They reside in Starkville with their four children, Joshua, Jonathan, Justin, and Joni. Three of them are currently attending Mississippi State University.
Banks is located at the Extension Office on Harmon Circle at the Courthouse Annex in downtown Ackerman. He can be emailed for assistance at email@example.com.