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Clea Rome

Director WSU Clallam County Extension

Clea is the Director of the WSU Clallam County Extension office. Clea is both an Associate Professor in the Community and Economic Development unit of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, as well as a department head of the Clallam County Extension office.  Both the University and the County provide financial support for the Director position and the Extension programs.

Much of the work that Clea and her team members in the Extension office are engaged in supports our local food systems. The Extension office has programs to help in growing food, increasing access to nutritious food, and reducing food waste to name a few.

When Clea started at the WSU Extension office,  there was a vault full of books at the office on every topic regarding agriculture and home economics. “Now, this piece of Extension is increasingly for a by-gone era.” What Extension used to be was “an encyclopedia about home economics and agriculture.” Of course, this was all pre-internet.

“One day, early on in my role here, an elderly woman came in looking for the log booklet that her family had used to run the household budget for many years. She came to the office to request two, one for each of her granddaughters. They were old enough to be taught how to use the booklet, so they would be prepared to manage their households.” Clea doubtfully walked into the vault and miraculously found two to give to her. 

Today the Clallam County Extension office continues to serve our community on those topics but a lot has changed. The old model was to have “Ag Agents”, specialists in the field working closely with farmers. Now with less resources across Extension because of on-going budget cuts to higher ed,  the County Directors are more generalists, seeking grant funding to support local projects and connecting people to resources across the University system. The Director job entails keeping the office running, ensuring projects and employees are funded, and working with Commissioners and partner organizations to understand and help address community needs.

Her undergraduate degree is in Biology with a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture. The landscape architecture focus was at the watershed scale of planning, which has a great deal of resource management involved. Clea has always been interested in the ways humans shape their surroundings, how human activities impact the landscape and how the landscape influences our built environments. Those interests led her to WSU Extension, to create better systems for humans and nature, and to address ongoing community problems.

When Clea first started the job in February of 2012, there was one other part-time employee in the office. Since then, Extension programs in Clallam County have grown tremendously under her leadership. Now Clea oversees the eight staff that work in the Extension office, with programming that includes community health, food access, gleaning, small farm resources, waste reduction, 4-H, and the Master Gardner’s program.

What motivates Clea is, “The awesome work that the staff are doing and the positive impact they are making on the community.” She says her job as director is to be behind the curtain making sure they can do the good work. She enjoys being in the role of supporting people to do what they are fabulous at.

There are also projects that she is directly connected with. One close to her heart is the Port Angeles Food Bank expansion and their upcoming kitchen / deli. This project has been slowly moving forward for the past 10 years and is getting closer to completion. The end goal is a kitchen where food surplus can be made into ‘to-go meals’, a place where gleaned food can be made into products with longer shelf lives and could be distributed to institutions and people in need throughout the year.

When I asked about an accomplishment she is proud of, she reflected briefly and shared her pride in the workplace culture she has nurtured amongst the staff. She works hard to create a supportive, safe and flexible work environment. She also mentioned how proud she is that the programs have grown substantially compared to where they were when she started. 

Thank you Clea for all the fantastic work you are doing!

You can reach Clea at clea.rome@wsu.edu