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Extension agent looks forward to new challenges
Billy Skaggs' last day in Hall extension office is Jan. 7
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Hall County Extension agent Billy Skaggs, right, talks with Wayne and Malvina Moffett at a going away reception for Skaggs Tuesday. - photo by Tom Reed

Many say he has had a lasting effect on the Hall County agricultural industry.

After more than eight years with the Hall County Extension, Billy Skaggs leaves his post early next month and takes a new role as the chief operating officer at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

At a Tuesday farewell celebration, the extension agent said he's "excited about the future" but still sad to end his work in Hall County.

Skaggs has had his hands in countless projects.

Skaggs said developing the organization's community outreach is one of his greatest accomplishments. He said it's been his goal to be proactive in reaching out to the large community the extension serves - from farmers to gardeners.

"We have been trying to expand our mechanism of how we get information out," he said.

For the past eight years, Skaggs has written two columns for The Times. His last will run Friday.

He also co-hosts "Homegrown," a weekly radio show WDUN, with Kellie Bowen, the owner of Full Bloom nursery in Clermont.

Under his tenure, the number of county farmers markets has expanded from one to three.

Steve Thomas, manager of the downtown Gainesville farmers market, said Skaggs was instrumental in building that network.

Without Skaggs' strong relationship with the local farmers' community, Thomas said, he never would have been able to get the idea for the new market off the ground.

Both Skaggs and his wife of 11 years, Betsy, were born and raised on Georgia farms, his wife said, and agriculture has always been an important part of their lives.

"(Billy) has Georgians' best interest at heart," she said. "He genuinely cares."

In his new position with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Skaggs will be in charge of operations for many the organization's regulatory duties, such as food inspection, meat-processing facilities and consumer protection.

While the job is a departure from his current role, he said he is excited for the challenge.

"The department touches every person in the state of Georgia, whether they know it or not." he said. "I have a chance to affect all of them."

Skaggs last day at the Extension is Jan. 7 and he will take his new role working under the newly elected Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black on Jan. 10.

Black said Skaggs, with his strong leadership skills and passion for agriculture, was a natural choice for the position.

"When people think of Billy Skaggs they think of integrity and work ethics," he said.

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