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Leaving behind a legacy: U of M regional director Schwartau retires

Chuck Schwartau, regional director at the University of Minnesota Extension program in Rochester, will officially be retired at the end of the month. The one thing he wont miss? The drive from Goodhue to Rochester. Kit Murray / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Family photo from 2009, including Schwartau's children, in-laws and grandchildren. Photo taken at the Minnesota State Fair beef show, showing several of Carol's and Schwartau's family work for the week. Photos courtesy of Chuck Schwartau2 / 3
Pictured above is Chuck Schwartau and his Mother and brothers circa 2002. (From left to right: Bruce, Ron, Lorraine Kunde, Chuck.)3 / 3

It may seem like another chapter has come to a close, but the extended family story continues. When it comes to his job, he'll say, it's hard not to get the family involved, as it has provided an endless list of opportunities for them to become more than just a part of his career.

With over a century of immediate family history within the University of Minnesota Extension program, Regional Director Chuck Schwartau is leaving behind a legacy. The timeline goes back to 1926, when his grandfather had worked on a University of Minnesota research plot.

"It's over a 45-year-span, a lot of time going to Extension offices and working with the public ... it's time to say that's enough," Schwartau said about his career, which began April 1972.

Starting right out of college, Schwartau has spent the majority of his life within the Extension program.

"I feel fortunate to have that chance to do some other things, then come back to a career that I really have loved,' he said about spending a few years outside the program. "One of the things I've appreciated about it; I've had the same employer for all those years, but the job has changed."

With experience in both the private and public sector, his focus had originally been on farmers within certain counties, such as Goodhue. But in 2004, the focus broadened to working with farmers in the dairy business statewide.

"I used to have contact with individual farms — that changed. We couldn't afford to do as much of that anymore," he said. "It took some getting used to for those of us that had been around for a while."

Four years ago, Schwartau went from an educator to regional director for the Southeast Region-Rochester at the University of Minnesota Extension. He worked with administrations in nine counties.

"I had worked in much of southeastern Minnesota over the years," he said.

His job description has varied, but over the years Schwartau has worked on staffing, budget, providing different volunteer programs with training and support, such as horticulture and master naturalists, community economic development and much more.

But family involvement goes way back. His brothers, father and aunt all became involved with 4-H at a young age, along with summer internships and on to the extension program. His brother Ron's wife, Connie, has been involved for 30 years with the program. The initial 4-H involvement struck the interest for Schwartau to continue his path within the Extension program.

"The curse continues, my oldest daughter (Casey) and son (Craig) have both done summer internships with Extension," Schwartau said with a laugh.

Education has been the foundation of the Schwartau family for decades, but now it's time for Schwartau, who turns 68 this month, to take a step back.

"One of the weirdest things right now is looking at my calendar to October, and it's almost blank. I've not had a calendar that empty for 32 years," he said.

Looking ahead on the calendar, he's certain he'll be able keep busy.

"I'm secretary of Goodhue County fair, I'm sure there will be more time involved, I enjoy it ... most of the time," Schwartau said.

With his free time, he hopes to continue spreading his knowledge throughout the community and staying involved. A possible return trip to Australia and New Zealand, which he visited for work in the past, are in the books for him and his wife, Carol, and even a little involvement with the Extension Tourism Center and Holiday Stroll is planned for this upcoming season in Red Wing.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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