Lincoln County’s branch of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension will soon be welcoming a new director.
Effective Aug. 1, Thomas L. Dyson will take over for Kevin Starr, the former director who announced his retirement in January after 23 years with the Cooperative Extension.
Dyson, his wife Lorenda and their five children are new to the Lincoln County area, but he and his family have quickly fallen in love with the region.
“We love it,” Dyson said. “Friendly people. It’s just the type of town that I love to be a part of. Just a beautiful place. We’re in town but it feels like you’re out in the woods.”
Dyson holds a Bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech University, as well as dual Master’s degrees from Virginia Tech University in horticulture and intercultural studies from The College at Southeastern.
The Dysons are proud missionaries who have spent an extensive amount of time in Mexico, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. When the family felt that mission work was complete, they began the process of moving back to the United States and working in agriculture, which is what Dyson loved best.
“As we were considering returning back to the United States of America, I knew I wanted to go back to Extension,” Dyson said. “We wanted to be further inland. We wanted to be sort of close to a larger city, like Charlotte, but we’re rural people, so we wanted to be rural and it all was a perfect mix and I took a look at what the Extension office was doing here (Lincoln County) and it just felt like a fit.”
After serving as an agricultural consultant and educator with the International Service Corps in Merida, Venezuela and an extension horticulture agent in Chowan, Gates and Perquimans counties, Dyson became the founder, coordinator and a professor of ENTRA, which is a National Missions School in Oaxaca, Mexico. While in Mexico, he also served as the interim director of the Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as acting as a seminary professor.
Dyson’s appointment was announced July 9 and was a joint decision from both Dr. Joe Zublena, the director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University, and Lincoln County manager Tracy Jackson.
Stressing the education aspect that the Cooperative Extension offers, Dyson placed strong emphasis on the programs that he hopes takes root with residents of the county. Feeling that his position is to be a link between the resources of the North Carolina State University’s education system, especially regarding matters of agriculture and horticulture, Dyson wants the community to know that the information is there and available for anyone that is interested.
“One of the things that I find attractive here is that there is that desire to expand and grow and preserve,” Dyson said. “I think there are lots of opportunities and possibilities for that and education can have a lot to do with that. That’s one of the things that we do, is local research. I’m really looking forward to getting involved with that.”
Clinton McRae, director of the Cooperative Extension’s South Central District, which includes Lincoln County, was very complimentary of Dyson’s leadership and his skill set.
“We are extremely excited for the Lincoln County team,” McRae said. “Tom has significant experience in building teams, securing resources and developing educational programs. Most important, Tom has a special passion for helping people, and he will be a great asset to the county.”