Kelli Lehman finds herself moving again as she takes the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service family and community health agent position for Randall County, beginning Oct. 1.
“Kelli’s vast array of experiences throughout her Extension career make her a perfect fit for Randall County and District 1,” said Brandon Dukes, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension district director Amarillo. “She has the reputation of being very innovative in her programming, and I am excited to have her in this important role.”
Lehman, a Vernon native, began her AgriLife Extension career in 1998 as a program assistant at the Texas 4-H Center in Brownwood and then as a family and community health intern in Childress County.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in human sciences from Tarleton State University and her master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies from the University of North Texas. She will complete her doctorate in agricultural education in May 2020 through a joint program between Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University.
Following her time at Tarleton, she was a family and community health agent in Stephens County, a 4-H youth development agent in Collin County, an urban youth development agent in Harris County and the 4-H youth development specialist for District 3 in Vernon. Most recently, she was the family and community health agent in Kendall County.
She is a member of the Texas Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, the National Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and a past member of the Texas and National Association of Extension 4-H Agents.
Lehman said while the position titles and locations have varied from rural to urban, she has worked hard in the areas of volunteer development as well as program development, implementation and program outcome, with both youth and adult audiences.
“I’m most looking forward to working with the people of Randall County,” she said. “The support AgriLife Extension has from both the community and the Randall County Commissioner’s Court is unmatched. That support combined with great co-workers, volunteers and an eager clientele is a recipe for success.”
An early priority, Lehman said, will be to develop a volunteer recruitment plan to increase the family and community health volunteer base. Having more well-trained Master Wellness volunteers will have a huge impact on the number and quality of community health outreach and in-depth programs.
“I’d also like to foster new partnerships with groups and businesses AgriLife Extension has not traditionally partnered with,” Lehman said. “My professional experience has allowed me to understand the diversity and complexity of programming needs and the clientele from both rural and urban areas. I think we have a unique opportunity to be creative in the way we extend our educational reach in Randall County. Thinking outside the box will open new doors and have a positive impact on the overall health of Randall County.”
Ninety percent of the country’s $2.7 trillion annual health care expenditures are for people with largely preventable chronic diseases and mental health conditions, Lehman said. At least seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. and Texas are preventable chronic diseases. Eighty percent of chronic diseases could be prevented through four key lifestyle factors: a healthy diet, adequate physical activity, healthy body weight and not smoking.
“Overall, Randall County is healthy, but it does have a higher number of cardiovascular disease deaths than the state and U.S.,” she said. “Through community nutrition education, AgriLife Extension can help reduce the number of chronic disease deaths we see each year in Randall County.”