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County Commissioners Association Extends Schmidt’s Fellowship
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 01/25/2023

As Cristy Schmidt, Penn State Extension applied research educator, nears the end of her two-year term as the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s Extension fellow, the organizations announced a yearlong extension of her fellowship, moving the end date to Dec. 31, 2023.

As a fellow, Schmidt works with the association in Harrisburg, providing expertise to commissioners in the state’s 67 counties to enhance the statewide partnership between the association and Penn State while learning more about county and state agencies and offices.

Penn State Extension receives substantial support from county governments across Pennsylvania and maintains an office in every county, providing local educational programs and services. Extension also is supported by state and federal appropriations through Penn State’s status as a land-grant university.

Schmidt is part of Extension’s energy, business and community vitality team and Penn State’s Center for Economic and Community Development. The center is housed in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

As an applied research educator, she collaborates with faculty, staff and undergraduate research assistants to conduct applied research that addresses emerging social and economic issues in communities and regions across the state. Schmidt also translates research to help decision-makers and community stakeholders understand, anticipate and respond to the challenges they face. She specializes in secondary data analysis, public policy analysis, data visualization and communication, public administration, and community and economic development.

As a fellow, Schmidt works with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania to find opportunities for meaningful collaborations across the two organizations. Her first year revolved around broadband expansion.

Schmidt helped develop a survey aimed at understanding the various ways that the state’s 67 county governments approached broadband expansion. She worked with association staff to analyze the survey results and create a report to share best practices surrounding broadband expansion and deployment initiatives.

The report was a strong component of the association’s testimony to the state legislature about the need for a cohesive statewide policy. The organization referenced the report in testimony on rural broadband to the House Consumer Affairs and Senate Communications and Technology committees.

In her second year as fellow, Schmidt utilized decennial census data to create 67 reports examining population and demographic change from 2010-2020 in each of Pennsylvania’s counties.

The reports include discussion questions meant to spark conversations about demographic change and its implications, specifically as it relates to governance and policy or decision making around topics such as resource and service allocation, attracting and retaining workforce, and placemaking strategies to help improve the quality of life for all county residents.

“From a policy or decision-making perspective, utilizing information about population growth or shrinkage could help county officials understand recent trends and what interventions may be necessary in the short and long term,” she said.

Schmidt also serves in an ex officio capacity on three association committees: the Agriculture Committee, the Community and Economic Development Committee, and the Academy for Excellence in County Government.

“I represent Extension on those committees,” she said. “Though I’m not in a voting capacity, I offer insights and feedback. I share updates about programs and educational opportunities that Penn State Extension can offer counties.”

Schmidt said she looks forward to continuing her relationship with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

“I really enjoy working with association staff on projects that are meaningful,” she said. “I’m excited about continuing those efforts and identifying future projects that are mutually beneficial to both organizations.”

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