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Simon names 2013 Rural Illinois Champion 


Jerry Townsend dedicated to improving quality of life for rural residents

SPRINGFIELD – March 8, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, today announced Urbana resident Jerry Townsend as the 2013 Rural Illinois Champion Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Townsend, 70, spent nearly 40 years with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development as the community programs director. Even after retiring, he continues to serve as a member of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council and is the immediate past president of the Illinois Rural Partners organization. He has served on the organization’s board of directors for the past 24 years.

“Jerry has spent his lifetime supporting and advancing the needs of rural Illinoisans,” said Simon. “Professionally and personally, Jerry is dedicated to helping strengthen and revitalize rural communities. I look forward to his continued service for many years to come.”

Townsend also volunteered with the Peace Corps and worked with the Western Illinois University Peace Corps Fellows program in rural Illinois. Townsend was recognized on Wednesday at the Rural Community Economic Development Conference in Peoria.

“Jerry was always supportive and tried to find ways for USDA-RD to help advance rural issues. The leadership that Jerry exhibited is not common among state and federal agency representatives,” said Dr. Norm Walzer, the 2012 recipient of the Rural Champion award.

In addition to the Rural Community Economic Development Conference, rural leaders gathered in Springfield this week for the inaugural Illinois Farmers Market Association conference. The association recognized Lt. Governor Simon for her work in expanding farmers markets’ accessibility to wireless debit, credit and Link “card-swiping” machines throughout the state. The program provides low-income residents with increased access to fresh, local produce. In 2012, 55 farmers markets accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, with plans to continue expansion this year. Additional details can be found here.