The news of county economic development director Teresa Huffman’s resignation Monday came as a bit of surprise, but the timing is right for her and for the county.
Huffman said this is her gateway to retirement, and we have little doubt she’ll make the most of it. She’s made so many good connections throughout the state and beyond through her work that she could hook up that fancy Glamper of hers and hit the road for months at a time, never worrying about having a place to park overnight or finding friends to meet up with.
If there’s anything about Huffman that’s obvious to anyone who spends a bit of time around her, it’s her habit of accentuating the positive. From the reporting side, that could be challenging when trying to get her to talk about something controversial, because she always preferred to focus on accomplishments and minimize differences.
It’s undoubtedly a trait that’s served to help her weather criticism that’s being leveled at her from time to time, including some that’s come from this corner. Many have expressed their opinion that Huffman spent too much time on tourism activities and promoting the county, and too little on hard-hitting business development.
There was a time when I shared those thoughts. Then I took a look at her actual job description and some county plans, and I realized Huffman was doing the job her bosses wanted her to do.
It’s not that she didn’t work on the business development side of things, but there was far more in those documents directing her to be a resource and promoter than being a business recruiter. In conversations I had with former commissioner Dan Holub, he was adamant that making state officials, regional economic groups, tourists, and others aware of Marion County was the most important part of Huffman’s work.
“She’s put us on the map,” he said. “They know us in Topeka.”
No matter what other people thought she should’ve been doing, Huffman did what’s expected of any good employee: She worked to fulfill the directives laid out for her by her employer. Seriously, who could reasonably fault her for that?
I appreciate Huffman’s service, as well as continuing on until May to make sure everything’s in good order when she leaves. I wish her well as she tests out her newfound freedom come May.
As for the county, the timing is good, if initially somewhat awkward, for the debut of the new county economic development corporation.
It’s good because Huffman’s departure is one less hurdle in the way of commissioners turning over their economic development activities to the corporation. It can be tough to make a business move that eliminates a job for someone, but that’s now a moot point.
It’s awkward because the corporation won’t likely be up and running when Huffman departs, and it won’t be simple if everything she’s been doing gets transferred to the corporation. Would the county hire a part-year employee to facilitate the transition, or would they take their chances a yet-to-be-named corporation director could figure that out?
There’s still plenty to be worked out about the county economic development corporation, including securing solid commitments from Marion and Hillsboro, but we’re looking at a new dawn for pursuing economic prosperity. It’s as good a time as any for change, because that’s what we’re all looking for in the days to come.
— david colburn