It is the end of an era at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus.
After a 34-year career with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Joe West, assistant dean of the Tifton campus, will retire on February 29.
During his 12 years as assistant dean, West spearheaded extensive capital improvements on the front campus, including the renovations of the Tift Building and Agriculture Research buildings and the construction of the Centennial Garden as part of the campus’ 100-year celebration in 2019.
“Having the opportunity to grow and renovate this campus has been such a wonderful experience. Putting the pieces together necessary to accomplish what we have in the last few years has been very rewarding,” said West.
West’s many accomplishments as assistant dean stem from his passion for the job, which has been evident since the beginning of his career. He described his road to becoming the assistant dean as “a long, wandering path.”
In 1986, West began working in the CAES Department of Animal and Dairy Science as a research scientist. In 2002, he was chosen to be the interim department head, a role that lasted almost two years.
West says serving in that leadership role equipped him with the tools he needed for the assistant dean position, which he assumed in 2008.
“You can’t see the future, but you’re always preparing for it. It was a great opportunity for me and it gave me the skills to do this job,” he said.
Kurt Seigler, superintendent of facilities and operations management and an engineer at UGA-Tifton, partnered West in planning many of the renovation projects. Seigler enjoyed collaborating with West because he always had a positive attitude and trusted his employees.
“He’s very easy to work with and he gives you a job to do and just lets you get it done,” said Seigler.
West also improved academic programs and facilities at the Tifton campus. According to George Vellidis, professor and director of academic programs, West was instrumental in ensuring that the Tifton campus has state-of-the-art classrooms, all of which allowed students to participate in distance learning opportunities, including taking classes that are offered on UGA’s Athens and Griffin campuses.
Vellidis said these efforts demonstrate how passionate West is about the success of students and faculty members at UGA.
“What is unique about him is he has the best interest of everyone on campus in mind, and he’s always looking after the good of everyone,” said Vellidis.
Teri Hughes, an administrative specialist in the assistant dean’s office, said she will miss the camaraderie West shares with all of his employees.
“I think I will miss his friendship the most,” said Hughes. “He cares a lot about the people he works with.”
West appreciates the well-wishes from his staff but hopes they are excited about seeing the new ideas of his successor.
“It’s been very comforting for folks to say they really don’t want me to leave and hate to see me go. I greatly appreciate that,” said West. “But it’s also an opportunity to get someone in here with a new vision.”
West will continue to live in Tifton and hopes to spend time traveling with his wife, Joy, both in the U.S. and internationally. He also plans to spend more time on his family farm in Tennessee.
West is most excited about the unknowns of retirement.
“My hope is that there will be time available that’s yet to be determined and that’s what I really look forward to, being able to be somewhat spontaneous,” said West.