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Shelton Mason County Journal
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February 13, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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February 13, 2014

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Longume w au 00xtenuon airector follows passion By NATALIE JOHNSON natalie@masoncounty.com After more than 20 years working for Mason County Washington State University (WSU) Extension, Bob Sim- mons is moving on to a full-time posi- tion that allows him to follow his pas- sion for water quality. "My mission is really to protect and improve water quality in Puget Sound ... for all of its uses," he said. Simmons, 50, has worked at Mason County WSU Extension since 1992 and has been director since 2001. On March 1, he will begin a new job at the Jef- ferson County WSU Extension office as state water quality program leader and a water resources specialist. Simmons said the water quality pro- gram leader position was created at his suggestion. "I really wanted to focus on water," he said. "WSU hasn't had a person pro- viding leadership in statewide water resources. I wanted to focus more of my energy in this last part of my career on water resources and water quality." Simmons said he has enjoyed his time in Mason County. "I really feel blessed," he said. "I love being part of all the programs we have here." Simmons said he has always loved water, and described himself as the Journal photo by Natalie Johnson Bob Simmons, director of Mason County WSU Extension, is leaving this month after more than 20 years in Mason County for a position as state water-quality program leader based out of the Jefferson County WSU Extension Office. last person to leave the water after a day on the beach. "I've always been drawn to water," he said. After getting a bachelor's degree in geomechanical engineering, Simmons soon realized he wanted to work in wa- ter quality. "I went back to graduate school and got a mastes degree in water resourc- es management," he said. After receiving that degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1991, Simmons packed up and headed west. "I had been out to the Pacific North- west the summer before I graduated from grad school and I really was tak- en by the mountains, the friendliness of the people (and) the beauty of the coastline," he said. "I got in my little pickup truck and moved here." Simmons worked for a short time for the Environmental Protection Agency in Oregon, then moved north after be- ing accepted for a position at the WSU Mason County Extension. Simmons said he is proud of the suc- cess of several programs, including the Mason County Noxious Weed Control Board, the 4-H Forestry Leadership Summer Program and a partnership with Mason Conservation District to lend technical assistance to local farm- ers. The partnership helps improve wa- ter quality and make farms more prof- itable, he said. "I'm proud that we have really good programs now," he said. "I'm proud of my staff. I can't really take credit for things." Simmons said he is also proud of a rain garden built about 3 years ago behind the Mason County Extension building on the corner of Fourth and Cedar streets. Rain gardens are made up of na- tive plants and permeable soil, and help drain and filter excess rainwater that might pool in a paved area, or flow straight into a storm drain, bringing contaminants such as oil along with it. "It's really serving a need," Sim- mons said. When people come into the office asking for information about rain gar- dens, Simmons said extension staff can take them out back and show them an example firsthand. "I feel like I'm leaving at a time when our programs are very strong," he said. "I feel like I'm leaving the of- fice in a good situation." After being the extension director for 12 years, Simmons said he hopes the next director brings a new perspective. "I hope that the new person can bring some new, fresh ideas," he said. Simmons said the Mason County WSU Extension is looking for a can- didate with experience in natural re- sources and economic development. Until a new Mason County director is hired, Lucas Patzek, Thurston Coun- ty WSU Extension director, will man- age the Mason County office. In his years as director of the Ma- son County WSU Extension, Simmons has been an active presence at regular meetings of the Mason County Board of Commissioners, each week sharing in- formation about the extension's work. "We're one of the departments that are really there for the people," he said. Mason County Sheriff Casey Salis- bury wished Simmons well at the Feb. 4 county commission meeting. "You are one of the kindest people I've ever met," Salisbury said. "Con- gratulations to  you and we'll deeply miss you." at the Pavilion Sat. Mar. 1 6-10 pm -- Cash Bar -- 21 & older event I .... PaybyFebruary25toresen, eatableof8 [ 190 W. 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