Extension agent is environmental advocate

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Being an extension agent is the perfect job for Suzanne Holmes.

"I love plants. I like working with people, and I enjoy problem-solving," said Ms. Holmes, who is a Clemson University extension agent for Aiken County.

Ms. Holmes became interested in working with the extension agency as a child. She had an uncle in Seneca, S.C., who was an extension agent. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture from Clemson.

After graduating from college, she worked as an extension agent in Edgefield County. She spent the next 11 years teaching horticulture and forestry at Strom Thurmond High School before moving to the extension office in Aiken.

"It's different every day," she said. "That's what I love."

Ms. Holmes is passionate about protecting and conserving the environment, especially water.

"I think people abuse the water supply," she said.

She teaches classes on how to make the best use of water in gardens, and she teaches groups about groundwater and how contaminants end up in lakes and rivers.

About two years ago, she wrote a grant to the Environmental Protection Agency to help in the cleanup of the Horse Creek watershed in Aiken County. The Department of Health and Environmental Control had determined that the system was impaired, she said.

Higher levels of fecal coliform bacteria had been found in the water. Infrared images of the area were shot on a cold winter night, and warm areas showed up on the images. These indicated contamination in the streams, she said.

Aiken County officials were able to match the funds from the grant so that lower-income residents could get septic tank repairs. About 25 septic tanks have been repaired 18 months into the two-year grant.

Ms. Holmes said she has been told that the water-quality figures have been improving.

"We probably won't know for another year, but it looks cleaner," she said.

Reach Charmain Brackett at charmain.brackett@augustachronicle.com.

PUBLIC SERVANT OF THE MONTH:

SUZANNE HOLMES


JOB TITLE: Extension agent


DUTIES: Ms. Holmes teaches the Master Gardener program, works with "green industries" such as landscapers, golf course managers and nurseries, and works with some of the county's 4H programs.


NUMBER OF YEARS IN POSITION: Ten


NOMINATOR'S QUOTE: "Suzanne continues to be a great asset to the community. She tirelessly continues to assist citizens, farmers and local communities alike with lawn, garden and tree issues they need answers for. She is an expert in plant nutrition, troubling insects, pesticides, fertilizer and herbicide use, and bees. Suzanne never misses an opportunity to assist anyone that calls on her advice," Tanya Strickland, of the city of North Augusta, wrote in an e-mail.


To nominate a Public Servant of the Month, contact Charmain Z. Brackett at charmain.brackett@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT IS COMMUNITY COUNTS?

Community Counts is The Augusta Chronicle's new collaborative effort to benefit the communities in our area. This multitiered program of involvement includes contests, events, sponsorships and recognition of outstanding youths, teachers, volunteers and public servants in the area. Nomination forms are available online at augustachronicle.com/communitycounts.


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