CRESTVIEW — When American soldiers, sailors, airman, guardsmen and Marines graduate from basic training, they have a Crestview woman to thank for newly acquired personal financial skills.
Though University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Okaloosa County Extension agent Elaine Courtney has retired, the program she created continues at boot camps nationwide.
"She has had just a remarkable career," County Extension Director Larry Williams said. "She has had national impact with her programs here."
Inspired by the America Saves personal finances program she observed in Washington, D.C., Courtney brought the program home and in 2002 reworked it into today's Okaloosa Saves.
"She has really built up the community through that program," Eglin Federal Credit Union spokeswoman Sherry Harlow, Okaloosa Saves Coalition chairman, said. "The drive is to build wealth and reduce debt."
Courtney tweaked Okaloosa Saves into Air Force Saves, which became standard training for new Eglin Air Force Base airmen. The Department of Defense, impressed by its impact, implemented the program throughout the armed forces.
As the extension's consumer and family services agent, Courtney also oversaw extension nutrition programs and supervised a team of volunteer home/community educators.
"They are not going to know what to do," Williams said jokingly. "When the new person comes in, it's going to be that scenario, 'Well, that's not the way Elaine did it.'"
During Courtney's Friday afternoon retirement party, Dr. Pete Vergot, dean of the university's IFAS program, presented her with emeritus status and a keepsake glass UF Gator, a gentle poke at Courtney's support of Florida State University.
"As a die-hard Seminole, it has been a pleasure to work for the University (of Florida) and take their money every two weeks," Courtney said.
Courtney said her retirement plans include working on the farm she and her husband Johnny have in north Walton County, taking care of her elderly mother, "and we want to do some traveling."
The university will probably advertise for a new consumer and family services agent within a month or two, Williams said.
"That's big shoes to follow," he said. "Elaine's made a name for herself. It's like losing a part of the family."