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Economic corporation stumbles toward new start

Staff writers

With two weeks to go until a new board is seated to lead Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation, it’s unclear just who those new leaders might be.

As county commission, Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody determine whom to nominate as their board representatives, a familiar face may find himself back on the board.

Chris Hernandez, an original economic development task force member and former MCCEDC board president, resigned from the group in June, citing a need to devote more time to his investments business.

However, he could end up back on the board after two groups sought to nominate him as one of their representatives.

Peabody Mayor Larry Larsen sent a Sept. 14 letter to Russell Groves, interim president of MCCEDC saying he and Peabody council “unanimously appoint Chris Hernandez and Bob Knapp to serve on the permanent Marion County Economic Development Corp. board.”

The council, however, did not vote on who to appoint until Monday, and the council chose neither of the two names submitted by Larsen. Instead, they chose Morgan Marler and Hannah Bourbon.

Peabody’s county commissioner did Tuesday morning what the city council rejected from its mayor Monday night: nominate Hernandez to the corporation board of directors as the county’s representative.

Commissioner Randy Dallke, who lives in Peabody and attended Monday’s city council meeting, said Hernandez was his first choice in a special teleconference meeting Tuesday.

“I’ve talked to him, and he said he would definitely like his name there,” Dallke said. “He said unless something really changes on the meeting date in October, he may not accept, but he really plans on accepting.”

When told of his nomination, Hernandez did not say whether he plans to accept.

“I don’t think that’s something that needs to be discussed in the public domain,” he said. “That’s something personal that can only be decided between me and the county.”

The economic corporation is funded wholly by city and county governments.

“I want to let these government bodies do their job, I don’t want to get involved in the politics of it,” he said.

Dallke nominated Kirby Smith of Goessel State Bank as an alternate in case Hernandez does not accept.

At Monday’s commission meeting, county clerk Tina Spencer asked Groves if he could name the other nominees.

“That’s really confidential at this point,” Groves said.

County counselor Susan Robson asked if the names were confidential until the people were actually appointed. Groves said yes.

When Groves first told Dallke that Peabody had chosen Hernandez, Dallke said his next choice was Marler, a Peabody resident employed by the city of Hillsboro. Groves said Marler cannot sit on the council because of a prohibition in the bylaws of city employees and officials of serving.

Marion mayor Todd Heitschmidt wanted city administrator Roger Holter on the corporation board to provide continuity to the corporation. Heitschmidt also nominated Darin Neufeld. Holter, as a founding member, was to be grandfathered onto the board.

However, when the bylaw change that allowed government officials to be on the board was overturned last week, Holter became ineligible to serve on corporation board.

Recent weeks have seen changes and turmoil as board members have worked to secure participation from Hillsboro, Peabody, and Marion.

Hillsboro initially balked at joining, objecting to Holter’s presence on the board while other cities’ officials could not. The bylaws were changed, Hillsboro joined, and then abruptly the bylaws reverted back to prohibiting city and county employees and officials.

Peabody council members expressed dismay with the first bylaws change, and voted to withhold a $7,000 payment to the corporation. Part of the reason joined was because it would be free of government interference.

With last week’s change, Peabody’s council chose Monday to continue to hold onto the money until they have corporation bylaws in writing.

Commissioner Kent Becker nominated Groves on Monday, but he declined. Becker said on Monday he wanted to nominate Jim Heffley, but Becker said Tuesday that he declined.

He said he has contacted two other individuals, but they both want more time to think about it. Becker’s nominee will be voted on at Friday’s meeting.

David Mueller of Tampa was approved by commissioners at Dianne Novak’s nomination. Commissioners have informally agreed their three nominations will come from each of the three district.

Last modified Sept. 28, 2017

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