55 seems pretty darn young to be retiring from a career; especially a career that you’ve been very very good at. But that’s just what Steve Munk is doing after 31 years as Minnehaha County Extension agent.
Long before the internet was around, we reporters at Keloland would use Steve as our “Google” whenever we needed an authority to interview for stories ranging from when to trim trees, how to murder noisy cicadas, how to properly disinfect a flooded basement or explain the nutritional value of processed foods, we’d automatically call Munk. He had all the answers and if he didn’t, he’d find out and call us back.
We used to kid him about being our Hank Kimball..but unlike the frustratingly inept character from the long-since-gone TV series, “Green Acres,” Steve always knew what he was talking about and had no problem articulating his explanations in front of the camera. He was, and is, just a valuable source of information on nearly any subject you can think of..not to mention, a real nice guy to boot.
Now, he’s leaving.
“What’s up Steve?” I said when I called him this morning. “You haven’t been caught up in a wave of county downsizing over there have you?” “Oh no,” he said..explaining that he had the option to retire at 55 and decided to take it. “Well,” I said, “I can identify with leaving a job you love but at least I waited until I was 60; plus, I’m basically a lazy oaf who can plop down on the couch in front of the TV for hours without an ounce of guilt; that’s not in your genetic make up..so what are you going to do really; I mean besides a few home projects and a bit of travel?
I was fishing for a scoop..hoping he might tell me that after a dozen years on the fair board, he was going to take over as manager of the Sioux Empire Fair…something like that. But he’s not..at least not for now.
Well, how about politics? Steve had served on the Dell Rapids School board for 12 years and pushed hard for the many improvements and new construction that’s transpired over there in that time.
Maybe he’s considering a run at public office on a larger scale. You could do a lot worse. No one doubts he’s a wealth of knowledge and has plenty of recognition from all his appearances on local TV..including Public Broadcasting’s “Garden Line.” Unfortunately for me, Steve has also mastered the art of political evasion and, while he said he certainly wouldn’t rule out running for office down the road, he wouldn’t fess up to having any particular goals in mind at present. “Will you let me be the first to know if you should run for anything?” I asked. “Sure will,’ he said.
Changing the subject, I asked Munk about some of the more unusual inquiries he’s gotten from people over the years. “Well,” he said, “There was the time when somebody brought in a dead snake in a paper sack for us to identify..which we did. Many others have asked if the bugs pulled from their child’s hair are head lice. Once a lady brought in a sample of her dog’s vomit in hopes we could use it to diagnose the animal’s ailment. But, it’s all been a part of the joy of the job; being able to come up with solutions or offer suggestions to folks’ who have problems or issues no matter how bizarre.”
Sounds to me like just the kind of fresh face we could use in Washington or Pierre. What’s that joke about politicians? Oh, yeah..they’re like babies. They need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.