ACRA — Executive Director Chuck Brooks from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties is retiring after seeing the nonprofit organization through its consolidation efforts.
Before joining the group, Brooks worked for the YMCA for 34 years in Michigan. He and his wife traveled back to New York to be with family, but Brooks wasn’t happy in retirement.
“I didn’t like retirement. I thought I could still work and do some good,” Brooks said. “I had interviewed for a couple of Cooperative Extension (jobs) and this is the one I thought was best.”
The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties was established in 1917 and aims to respond to “the needs of local residents with unbiased, research-based information, tools and education that people have come to depend on and trust,” according to the organization.
Brooks joined to lead the nonprofit as Greene and Columbia counties consolidated into one organization in 2012.
“I had been part of the consolidation of the Capital District (YMCA) to Schenectady and Troy, so I thought I could help,” he said, adding that was part of the reason he took the job in 2012. “It was a consolidation, so we had to start with dealing with the issues of having two counties that didn’t work together to become one association.”
Brooks’ retirement after the consolidation comes at a time when Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for local governments to consolidate services. In November, Cuomo announced the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition for local governments to build consortiums and compete for a $20 million award to lower taxes for residents.
The consolidation has made the organization stronger, Brooks said.
“We are challenged by budget situations and finances like a lot of other nonprofits,” Brooks said. “The difference is that we made changes that make the association into a much stronger nonprofit that would serve the area, still continuing high-quality programs, but I think it’s helped us just to continue. Whether both organizations would still be here today without consolidating, I don’t know. But I do know that it’s much stronger.”
While Brooks wasn’t ready to retire previously, he feels now is the right time.
“It was time. I started here after 34 years from one organization. I’ve been here six years and there’s a point that you know it’s time to retire. A lot of it for me was trying to take care of my personal health and to spend more time with my family,” he said. “There’s a point – especially in consolidations – when it’s time for someone else to step in and move it to the next level and it’s that time.”