O’Connell’s dedication to community cited in Distinguished Achievement Award

October 29, 2010

By Jim Hiney

John O’Connell’s commitment to leadership and community development has earned him recognition from the Texas Extension Specialists Association.

O’Connell, the Texas Sea Grant College Program’s marine agent for Matagorda County, received a County Extension Agent Award for Distinguished Achievement for work ranging from resurrecting a county leadership training program to leading the National Sea Grant Educators’ strategic plan development efforts.

Angela McCorkle, Extension Program Specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s Family Development and Resource Management Unit, presented the award to O’Connell during Texas Sea Grant Extension training in early October.
“I was honored to be recognized for my work,” said O’Connell, “especially considering these are non-typical programs for a coastal and marine resource agent.”

Matagorda County’s leadership training workshop had been discontinued for two years — the victim of high production costs — when O’Connell revived the program in 2009. He recognized that “leadership training for local elected, business and volunteer leaders is crucial to strong communities,” according to his nomination packet, which was submitted by the Ag Economics Chapter of Texas Extension Specialists Association.

O’Connell formed an alliance between Texas AgriLife Extension and the Bay City Chamber of Commerce to make the workshop possible. He led work to revise promotional materials and develop the training agenda, which utilized a curriculum already developed by Texas AgriLife Extension. O’Connell also taught many of the courses and recruited teachers for other courses. Through O’Connell’s efforts, the cost to participants was cut in half.

O’Connell calls the award “significant because it recognizes that Texas Sea Grant Extension’s efforts go beyond fisheries and purely coastal issues. The work at the heart of this award benefits an entire community.”

O’Connell’s award also recognized his commitment to improving customer service offered by area businesses. He formed an advisory committee that reviewed customer service practices and then made training recommendations to area business owners and their employees.

In addition to his leadership role with the National Sea Grant Educators Network, O’Connell is Chairman Elect of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System
Education and Outreach Council.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.