Extension Association Names Mark O’Connell ‘Friend of Extension’

Mark O’Connell, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Counties Association and a longtime leader in local and state government, has been named the national “Friend of Extension” for his work in advising the direction of and advocating for UW-Madison Extension across Wisconsin.

Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP), a professional association of Extension faculty and staff across the country, maintains the Friend of Extension Award to recognize outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts. The Award is the highest honor Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) designates to partners and advocates. Mark was named the award recipient at ESP’s 2021 National Conference in Savannah, Ga.

Mark has been with WCA since 1989 and has exemplified WCA’s mission of education and research resulting in an ability to affect public policy and benefit county government. Through a partnership established between WCA and Extension’s Local Government Education Program, Extension has been the “go-to” source for educating county elected officials for nearly two decades. WCA was also instrumental in helping to shape the Extension-run Local Government Leadership Academy, providing input on the need, format, and content. Mark is also a member of UW-Madison Extension’s Board of Visitors, joining a group of community-focused experts informing Extension’s strategic visions and program delivery.

In the last few years WCA has taken on the task of re-establishing an organization called the Wisconsin Extension Association, a group of elected county officials advising local Extension efforts in their communities. UW-Madison Extension employs a statewide network of over 700 faculty and staff located in community-based offices and on UW Campuses. The connection between local governments and Extension remains critical to ensuring University knowledge and expertise are leveraged for community solutions that benefit all Wisconsinites.

UW-Madison Extension’s relationship with the Wisconsin Counties Association has, simply put, made Extension “better,” said Karl Martin, Dean and Director of UW-Madison Extension.

“The Wisconsin Counties Association continues to be a strong advocate for counties’ support of Extension in transforming lives and communities. Together we are building a stronger connection between Extension and county government – as well as between county representatives and state-level leaders – which further builds awareness and demonstrate the impact of Extension programming and education,” Martin said.