U.S. Air Force Colonel (Retired) Wendell H. Taylor began his eleven-year 4-H career during elementary school in Jackson County where he enjoyed projects in field crops, poultry and livestock. He won numerous awards for his projects in agriculture, leadership and livestock judging.
“4-H was an enabler; it taught me leadership and public speaking skills, especially the ability to persuade and think on my feet,” said Taylor. In 1960, he held the highest individual score and was a member of the championship livestock judging team at the Florida State Fair.
Through these projects he developed an interest in leadership programs, and he participated at the county, district and state levels. As a 4-H senior he never missed county events, 4-H Camp or State 4-H Boys Short Course at the University of Florida (the early forerunner of the Florida 4-H Congress).
Taylor’s love of 4-H helped him get a job while he was a student at the University of Florida. He worked as a lifeguard at Camp Timpoochee in 1961 and in 1963. He was a staff member at 4-H Camp McQuarrie in 1962.
Taylor served for 28 years in the United States Air Force where he reached the rank of Colonel. He was an aviator and then specialized in International Negotiations and Relations.
As a senior Government Interagency Officer in Washington, D.C. Taylor worked on projects with the Secretary of Defense, CIA, FBI, Customs, Immigration, Commerce and State Departments. Col. Taylor also served as a member of the US Air Force's Blue Ribbon Panel that established requirements and recommendations for the reorganization of the national space program for the 2l" century.
Upon retirement from his prestigious career with the Air Force, Taylor made the conscious decision to forego a career in international trade. Instead, he returned to his hometown roots and put his knowledge and expertise to work for Jackson County, where he served as county administrator.
As president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Taylor headed up the Campaign to have Jackson County designated as a Rural Federal Enterprise Community. Through his efforts. the application was accepted (one of 23 in the nation), and as a result, three million federal grant dollars were secured for programs targeting low income residents and improving economic conditions.
He was also instrumental in organizing the Jackson County Development Council, which works with grass roots organizations to implement community resource centers, food banks, and other economic enrichment programs. The Federal Enterprise Community designation has enabled citizens and other organizations to secure additional grant dollars to help establish, support, and maintain youth programs and has encouraged cooperation among businesses and youth organizations, including 4-H.
In reflecting on reasons why he was successful in life – Taylor always returned to his 4-H experience. “But for my 4-H experiences as a youth, I would not have been as successful in the military and in life,” said Taylor. “4-H gave me confidence and taught me that I could achieve anything I set my mind and heart to do. 4-H multiplied my opportunities.”
Throughout Taylor’s professional career, he was a strong advocate for youth and he continues to support youth programming in Jackson County. While serving as County Administrator he encouraged County Commissioners to fund budget requests that would support the Jackson County 4-H program, and is a willing volunteer for 4-H public speaking events and leadership programs.
“Colonel Taylor is not shy about sharing his 4-H experiences with local government, civic, business and youth organizations,” said Heather Shultz, a 4-H agent with the Jackson County Cooperative Extension Service. “He is a spokesman for the benefits of 4-H and openly credits 4-H with his professional success.”