Ed Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, receives distinguished leadership award
“The challenge I put forward was if Extension was created yesterday by an act of Congress and the General Assembly, what would we do? I'm proud of how well the folks in Extension have adapted to the times,” said Ed Jones.
In honor of his outstanding guidance, Ed Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, received the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors award for distinguished leadership.
The award, which recognizes those who have served the national land-grant system, the Southern Extension Services, and the association with exemplary distinction, is not given unless those requirements are fulfilled. Jones is the first member of Virginia Cooperative Extension to receive the award since its inception in 2008.
The recipient must be nominated by a fellow member of the association and the award is voted on by the other southern region Extension directors.
“This means even more to me because someone took the time to get the letters of support that are required for the nomination. Whoever nominated me did that,” said Jones, who is also an associate dean in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Knowing that my peers think this much of me means more to me than anything else.”
Jones forged his leadership style while he working as the associate director of Extension at North Carolina State University. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd trigged the third-largest weather-related evacuation in the United States at the time, devastating communities along the east coast. It was then, as he worked with the state of North Carolina to help with recovery, that Jones learned how to lead during major crises.
These days, Jones is helping lead his organization through another crisis — COVID-19. He has held regular “Ask Ed Anything” live video calls with faculty and staff in the 107 Extension offices across the state, answering sometimes-difficult questions about how to deal with the evolving challenges of the pandemic. Jones has encouraged his team to find ways to help their hometowns cope with the challenge, regardless of the need. It follows his vision for ensuring that Extension helps communities thrive no matter the issue — agricultural changes, drug addiction, poverty, nutrition, health, financial literacy, and more.
“I'm proud of how well the folks in Extension have adapted to the times,” Jones said.
When Extension was founded 1914, the vision Congress laid out was to address the most pressing issues in America at the time. Through its outreach programs, Extension is the heart of the land-grant mission to share knowledge with the world. For Jones, that vision hasn’t changed over the 100-plus years of the organization’s service to communities.
“Agriculture is still a big part of Extension because it is the biggest piece of the Virginia economy. That being said, our communities also face additional challenges, such as opioid addiction,” Jones said. “Everything in the commonwealth is connected and our purpose as an organization is to address these pressing issues.”
Jones’ basic tenet of leadership is working to fulfill the vision of an organization striving to meet those needs.
“One of the phrases that I tell folks in Extension is that our job is to help them do their job. They don’t work for me, I work for them,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for them there would be no need for me. They're the ones that are making a difference in people's lives. I have the moral obligation to do what I can to help them do that job.”
“An organization should be built around its vision,” he said. “The leaders are just the ones who have the responsibility and the accountability to help implement that vision.”
- Written by Max Esterhuizen