Friday, January 26, 2018

Former Extension director, longtime agent retires

Extension Economist Tony Nakazawa, who was affiliated with Alaska Extension over a 37-year period, retired at the end of December.

Tony Nakazawa
Nakazawa served many roles with Extension in Alaska, including as its interim director and director from 1997 to 2007.

His first job with Extension, in 1980, was as a "local government coordinator" in Anchorage. His job was to help communities that wanted to incorporate as second-class cities. From there, his interest in rural and community development and Alaska’s political process grew.

Nakazawa taught numerous noncredit community development classes to communities and tribal groups. Subjects included the use of computers, business planning, grants writing and government process. He also taught graduate and undergraduate classes in rural development management strategies at UAF, most recently with the College of Rural and Community Development.

He credits a two-year stint as a patrol officer in Santa Barbara, California, for helping him continue with his graduate studies in the early 1970s. He says working the evening or night shifts allowed him to earn a master’s degree in urban economics during the day. He would go on to earn a master’s and doctorate in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California Berkeley.

Tony gives a presentation in a library.
Nakazawa worked as an economic development specialist for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and as an Extension specialist for the University of Hawaii before coming to work for Cooperate Extension in Alaska in 1980. He served as the community development program coordinator and as the acting program leader for Extension programs in home economics, energy and community development.

During a 1988 sabbatical, Nakazawa reviewed Japan’s Extension system and taught in the University of Petroleum’s MBA program in Shandong, China. He took a leave of absence from 1992-1995 to serve as director of the Alaska Division of Community and Rural Development under Governor Wally Hickel.

When he returned to Extension, he measured community impacts and worked on regional tourism and community and rural economic development. In recent years, he became more interested in government workings and co-authored several chapters in “Alaska Politics and Public Policy,” a textbook published by the University of Alaska Press in 2016. He also served as the Alaska faculty coordinator for the States’ 4-H International Exchange Programs exchange with Japan.

Former Extension directors, from left, Jim Matthews, Hollis Hall and Art
Buswell pose with Tony Nakazawa.
Nakazawa and his wife, Lynette, plan to stay in Alaska. He expects to continue his interests with economic and community development and his work with the state’s AlaskaHost customer service program training for employees of the hospitality and tourism industry and with a group that focuses on the emerging topic of “geotourism,” which is place-based community development.

“I’ll continue to be a resource for the communities I work with,” he said.

Nakazawa is a sansei, or third-generation, Japanese-American. His parents’ families came from Japan, and he grew up working on his family’s farm in Tolleson, Arizona.  Nakazawa, who is a seventh-degree blackbelt in karate, will also continue to instruct karate classes as he can and will remain involved with Alaska’s Asian community.

Nakazawa has seen many ups and downs with the university budgets, and he believes in the long-term mission of Extension and its work with the public.

“Extension’s presence in communities across the state is so vital,” he said.

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