Although her work relates to the Clay County Extension Office and 4-H programs, for the past two decades Colleen Speakman has acquired a lot of county-related knowledge.
"I get a lot of phone calls – sometimes I think people think I'm the county operator," she said with a laugh. "I'll get questions that don't even pertain to what I do, but I have an answer for them. I don't know where it comes from."
On Sunday, Aug. 5, Speakman celebrated her 21st year as a county employee.
She works as office manager for the Extension, and as a 4-H program assistant.
A native of the Beresford area, she picked up the job after she returned to South Dakota from Minneapolis in 1991.
Much of what Speakman does comes in the form of answering questions from county residents, pertaining to everything from farm leases to horticulture.
A big topic this summer has been the ongoing drought.
"I've had three or four farmers come in, and I give them the information they need so they can contact a specialist with the Sioux Falls office, or a specialist in Brookings," she said. "They want to know what they should do with their corn, if they should cut for silage, if there's going to be nitrates in it, how to get it tested."
In addition, Speakman dispenses information relating to other county projects and events, such as the Clay County Fair, which is scheduled for Aug. 9-11.
"People come in and want booth forms or derby entry forms," she said. "I'll give those to them. I help line up the entertainment. Year-found, if any questions come in pertaining to the fair, I answer them."
Speakman also works extensively with Clay County 4-H. which she says is one of her favorite parts of the job.
"I handle all the paperwork for 4-H, getting members enrolled, answering a lot of their questions, getting everything ready for the fair, getting the exhibits enrolled," she said. "I keep records of everything, keep the kids on top of what they should be doing."
Enrollment in 4-H is on the increase, she said, with 188 members overall.
"We had 96 last year," she said. "When I first started, we were running about 176, and it started to decline. There were school activities – sports takes a lot – but we're back up to 118."
Speakman said this trend is due in part two 4-H's shooting sports club and dog club.
"Those are the fastest-growing ones," she said. "We have excellent leaders. Margaret Williams is the dog leader. She is just great with the kids. We have five shooting sports leaders … Mike and Susan Rolfes, Jeremy West, Barry Banks and Randy Huot.
"They are really good with the kids. It just spreads the word of mouth," she said.
When she isn't at work, Speakman said she enjoys reading and making custom greeting cards.
"I do a lot of crafts. When you're involved with 4-H, there are a lot of crafts," she laughed.
Speakman said that while she loves working with the people in the various groups, there is one aspect to what she does that she enjoys above all others.
"I learn something new every day – no matter what it is," she said.