Extension agency chief retires to heaped praise CARROLL COUNTY FARM/BUSINESS

October 14, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

The consummate public servant, a man willing to let others shine while he quietly worked out the details, an analytical thinker carefully solving problems.

These are the images friends and colleagues have of Walter Bay, who has retired this month after 28 years with the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension Agency. He was honored as extension agent emeritus at a reception in his honor recently at Wilhelm Catering.

Mr. Bay, a Carroll County extension agent for 19 years, became the county agency's director when Robert Jones retired in 1984. He then became a regional director in 1990.

"It was a good day for the extension agency and for Carroll County when [Mr. Bay] came here," said Mr. Jones of the man he hired in 1965. "He was highly valued by the extension service as well as the farm families he worked with."

Raised on a northern Baltimore County dairy farm, Mr. Bay began his career in agriculture with a degree in dairy husbandry from the University of Maryland in 1958. He later earned a master's degree in extension education from the University of Maryland in 1967.

'Farm boy'

"I was a farm boy to begin with," Mr. Bay said of his decision to study agriculture. "I just felt it was something I knew a little something about. It was something I was interested in."

After spending time working for the Southern States retail stores and the company's wholesale hay ingredient service, Mr. Bay accepted a job with Carroll County's extension agency working with dairy farmers and field crops.

"I thought that working with farm families would be a rewarding type of work, that trying to be helpful would be satisfying," said Mr. Bay, now 60. "It did turn out that way. What made it so enjoyable was that I worked almost all my career in Carroll County and the people here were just great to work with.

"I was very fortunate in the colleagues I had. They were very dedicated people, very competent and just a joy to work with."

The job then grew. He often spent long nights working on financial management plans for local farmers, a program he helped develop and distribute throughout the state, Mr. Bay's colleagues said.

"He was probably the best farm management analysis agent in the state of Maryland," Mr. Jones said.

Carroll County's agricultural preservation administrator William Powel agreed, recalling the time Mr. Bay spent analyzing the dairy operations he used to manage.

Good counsel

"I remember him counseling my partner and I very thoroughly in how to arrive at a decision about whether to participate in the dairy herd reduction program," Mr. Powel said, referring to a federal program that offered farmers money to sell their animals.

Mr. Powel also said he wouldn't have his current job if it weren't for Mr. Bay.

"Back in 1985, when I read an article about Marlene Conaway being hired as the administrator of the agricultural preservation program, I told Walt I was thinking about a career change, and that would be the very kind of job I would like to have," Mr. Powel recalled. "When Marlene became the assistant planning director, he called me and said 'If you were serious about wanting that position, there's an opening.'

"Walt was one of the people I looked on to help me when I had some tough decisions in my job. He and I have been fairly close, more than an ordinary farmer calling up his extension agent," Mr. Powel said of his fraternity brother.

Both were members of Alpha Gamma Rho, the University of Maryland's agricultural fraternity, during their college years.

Carefully thinking out solutions to tough decisions is Mr. Bay's specialty, his friends and colleagues said.

During the extension agency's recent budget crisis, Mr. Bay could often find ways to cut costs without sacrificing the organization's dedication to farmers, they said.

"Everybody needs someone like Walt, who doesn't just approach things based on how they look on the surface," said David Greene, Carroll County's current extension director. "He looks at what will happen if you move in this particular direction."

That attitude showed him much about approaching problems as the current director, Mr. Greene said.

"He taught me that there are two sides to every story and that you don't want to react too quickly," he said. "You should think things through and, sometimes, put the problem aside and come back to it later to see if you still feel the same way about it.

"That's the way he approached all important decisions where there was a conflict."

Following in Mr. Bay's footsteps as director of the Carroll County extension office wasn't too difficult, Mr. Greene said.

The former director had already streamlined office communication and hired effective employees who could work without much guidance, making the transition much easier, he said.

'Bloom County'

"He and I are a lot alike," Mr. Greene said. "We are both methodical, like to follow something through and see that it is done well. I followed those things he had set up and, in some cases, may have improved on them."

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