Gary Small Set to Retire After a Lifelong 4-H Career
Snow storms have a long history of affecting major life events, and it was a nasty winter storm in Wyoming in 1975 that set Colorado 4-H Foundation Executive Director Gary Small on the path to a lifelong career in 4-H. The storm forced 19-year-old Gary to stop over in Douglas on his way home to his family’s ranch from Northwest College in Powell. He happened to know the 4-H extension agent in town, who put him up for the night and spent the evening convincing Gary of the many rewards and opportunities afforded by a career in 4-H.
Not long after his graduation, Gary was hired as the extension agent for Laramie County in Cheyenne. While there, he helped organize the 4-H Junior Legislative Program in partnership with the Wyoming state capital and established 501(c)3 Healthy Infant Capable Adolescent Program, a collaboration of the extension office, 4-H and the Laramie County school district. With support from a USDA grant the program provided education, support and childcare services to teen mothers, enabling them to finish school. Though the work meant leaving his young family for frequent travel to Washington, D.C., Gary counts the work of the successful program as some of the most rewarding of his career.
“He travelled so much, our oldest daughter used to put her stuffed animals in his suitcase so he’d remember her,” recalled Gary’s wife Mary, who serves as the CSU Extension State Master Gardner Coordinator.
A new leadership opportunity became available to Gary in 1996 through the Larimer County extension program, and together with Mary and three children Amanda, Adam and Sara, the family moved south to Loveland. Highlights of Gary’s 11 years as the Larimer County 4-H Extension Agent included the creation of the Technology Tour program in partnership with regional businesses, and tireless outreach and campaign activities that led to the development of the 244-acre Ranch Events Complex in Loveland. The regional hub is the home of the Larimer County Fairgrounds, indoor and outdoor arenas, the Budweiser Events Center and more.
“Gary has always been willing to do whatever it takes to make the kids and program succeed,” said Verla Noakes, Fremont County Extension Agent. “He’s willing to step out of his comfort zone to make things happen.”
It was Gary’s deep desire to put more funds into all of Colorado’s county 4-H programs that drove him to take on the role of Executive Director of the Colorado 4-H Foundation a decade ago. During his tenure, Gary estimates that the financial support to the state’s county programs has tripled. Securing funding through means that include a huge multi-year grant from the Daniels Fund and the Ford Truck Raffle program have helped enhance the value of the Foundation.
“The stability and growth of the Colorado 4-H Foundation have increased tremendously under Gary’s direction,” said Jean Glowacki, Colorado 4-H Program Director. “His commitment to supporting 4-H programs in every county of our state has enriched countless lives of youth during his tenure as Executive Director.”
For nearly four decades, 4-H has benefitted from a true champion of the program. From his own experience as a 4-H member, to a commendable career and multiple positions on the National Association of 4-H Extension Agents Board, Gary’s legacy is certain. It’s a legacy solidified by his positive impact on thousands of 4-H youth, families and agents across Colorado and the nation.
“As I reflect on the last 39 years, one theme seems to prevail: “Incredible Opportunities,” said Gary. “I thank my family, friends and colleagues for sharing your knowledge with me over the years and for the wealth of great memories,” said Gary.