Officially, Betsy Crisp’s last day of work was Feb. 3.
But, based on her track record, it seems unlikely that the Land O’ Lakes woman will merely kick back and relax.
Crisp retired after 29 years as the food and consumer sciences extension agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences – Pasco Cooperative Extension.
She is the woman who crisscrossed Pasco County preaching the gospel of good nutrition. She helped people to navigate through bureaucratic systems. She used elbow grease when a job needed to be done.
Crisp helped nurses learn how to balance the demands of their work and daily home life.
She taught classes on cooking with herbs and spices.
She provided pointers for stretching a food dollar.
She helped launch Pasco County’s first residential recycling program, and was on the ground floor 20 years ago establishing the Suncoast Harvest Food Bank, which is now part of Feeding Tampa Bay.
Over the years, Crisp’s work drew attention.
She was named the southern region’s Continued Excellence Award winner in 2013 for her many accomplishments on the job.
The licensed dietitian was honored for the nearly 150 programs she presented each year in the areas of food, nutrition, health and safety.
Her Family Nutrition Program also secured grant funding to support several program assistants and many volunteers, helping more than 136,000 people improve their eating habits.
That award was among numerous honors she picked up over the years.
She deserved the recognition because her work got results, said friends and colleagues who attended her retirement reception at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.
“Betsy has always gone above and beyond. She set high standards for herself and carried a very full workload,” said Mary Chernesky, former director of the Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension Office.
A proposal Crisp co-wrote in 2007 for the USDA SnapEd Family Nutrition Program received funding for $160,000 a year, and the funding has since escalated to almost $400,000 a year, said Chernesky, who is now retired.
“Betsy has helped people, counseled them, shared her knowledge, made a difference in people’s lives in the county and state,” Chernesky added.
Crisp paid attention to what her peers were doing, and when she recognized a program of excellence, she nominated it for an award.
“Many extension agents across the state have received recognition and awards, over the years … because when Betsy found programs that were good enough to be considered for nomination, she did it. Sometimes we didn’t even know it had been sent in,” Chernesky said.
Kurt Conover, who spoke at Crisp’s party, said he met Betsy about 30 years ago.
That’s when Crisp suggested that Land O’ Lakes get involved in the Coastal and Waterway Cleanup, Conover said.
He said Crisp told him: “Land O’ Lakes should get involved in that. We’ve got lots of lakes here.”
So, the pair became co-captains, and they organized the largest volunteer effort of any site in Pasco County, Conover said.
Conover said he handled the easy part: Getting donations of supplies and food for the cleanup crews.
Crisp took care of the logistics. She made sure that cleanup teams weren’t duplicating efforts.
Besides cleaning up the community, the annual effort has encouraged community involvement, Conover said.
It has had a generational impact, too, he said.
“There were children who came to this event that grew up to be adults, and they had their children there, participating,” Conover said.
He also noted that Crisp’s husband, Paul, and the couple’s children, Megan and Michael, were always there to pitch in.
Besides delivering at the professional level, Crisp is known for her personal touch, friends and colleagues said.
She remembers birthdays.
She asks about sick relatives.
She celebrates her colleagues’ joys and helps them shoulder their sorrows.
Crisp said her achievements came because of the people she was able to work with throughout her career.
At her reception, she made it a point to go around the room calling out people by name and publicly thanking them for their help. She had a kind word for practically everyone — if not everyone — in the room.
Crisp said she loved every minute of her career — except when she had to cut her staff because of budget reductions.
“I cried,” she said.
But, Crisp managed to keep her emotions in check at her retirement party.
One colleague, however, could not.
Her voice broke, as she bid farewell to Crisp — her trusted mentor and friend, someone she knows she will dearly miss.
Published February 15, 2017