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Northwestern Illinois welcomes new county director

New staff Karla Belzer County Director in Carroll, Lee and Whiteside Counties

URBANA, Ill. – Supported by a background in community health, new County Director Karla Belzer will guide University of Illinois Extension staff in Carroll, Lee and Whiteside counties as they continue to build relationships and stronger, healthier communities.                 

Illinois Extension staff live and work in the communities they serve throughout the state to meet families, businesses, and communities where they are and provide local research-based solutions for local issues. Belzer served as interim director for several months before transitioning to the role permanently in November.

“Karla has demonstrated strong supervision, collaboration, and partnership-building skills, all of which are critical to the success of Extension’s mission,” says Regional Assistant Director Janice McCoy. “I look forward to watching the growth in programs and partnerships under her leadership.

Belzer previously served as an Extension Family Life Educator in Northwestern Illinois since 2015. Her programs included mindfulness education, brain health, trauma and adverse childhood experiences, and many life wellness areas. Before working with Extension, she was in the health and human services field for nearly 20 years in both direct care and administrative roles.

“In my work as an educator, I had the honor of connecting with community members and partnering with many great local organizations to meet community needs and provide programs that made a positive impact,” Belzer says. “I look forward to building new partnerships, and my hope is the Extension will continue to be a trusted expert for information, a reliable community partner, and a valued contributor to the health and well-being of all community members.”

Belzer added that she hopes to expand school programming and outreach to Hispanic communities while continuing to provide residents with reliable education that can help improve their lives.

Belzer has a bachelor’s degree in Recreation Administration from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Indiana University. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and is a member of the National Extension Association of Family of Consumer SciencesIllinois Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Epsilon Sigma Phi.

Outside work, Belzer is an active community member volunteering her time as a Cub Scout Den leader and with the United Way. In her spare time, Belzer enjoys walking her dogs, hiking with her family, gardening, traveling, and spending time outdoors.

Belzer is based in the Whiteside County Extension office in Sterling and can be reached at or (815) 632-3611.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.