Hillsboro steps in
to fill economic void
City developer tabbed as interim director of county economic corporation
Two new directors are in, three founding directors are out, and Marion County Community Economic Development Corporation has a new interim director because of actions taken at a Monday meeting in Marion.
Recurring themes of confused communication and lack of clear leadership that have hampered the group since last summer were targeted in a proposal from Hillsboro city administrator Larry Paine to offer Hillsboro economic development director Anthony Roy’s services as part-time interim director.
“Like any start-up business, you have struggled to develop a consistent message and build a plan to operate that has the buy-in of all the communities in the county,” Paine said in a written proposal. “I have seen passion toward getting the organization formed, but it is missing clear leadership — not in trying to set goals but in the ability to get things done .…”
Paine cited a letter to the group from Marion mayor Todd Heitschmidt as evidence of difficulties.
“The way he expressed himself said, in essence, ‘What are you doing, where are you going and how are you getting there?’” Paine said. “In a real sense, he challenged you to get back to the task of getting this organization performing.”
Paine originally proposed having Marion economic development director Randy Collett share interim duties with Roy, but said he was told Monday by Marion city administrator Roger Holter that Marion would rather not be in that position.
Questioned by board member Jim Hefley, Holter clarified Marion’s position.
“We’re in support of it,” Holter said. “We don’t have the availability of Mr. Collett to serve in that role. We did share that we support the idea that you need interim help to get things organized and communicated.”
Hefley responded favorably.
“The thing I want to see in this community, these stakeholders working together as a unit,” he said. “If Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody can embrace the concept, I think we have a very qualified individual here. The days of turf wars, I hope, are behind us.”
Roy noted that while Hillsboro and Marion were on board, he didn’t know whether Peabody had been contacted about the proposal.
“Peabody agrees it should be a short-term position and more of a lead advisory role,” Peabody representative Hanna Bourbon said. “Originally I would say we were against it, but after speaking with the mayor I think we’re OK to move forward as long as the job description has a time restriction. I think anyone who takes this would probably want that, too.”
The board approved Roy as interim director for six months. He will facilitate administrative operations and communication but will not conduct economic development activities on behalf of the group. The cost for his time will be covered by Hillsboro.
Tammy Ensey, Russell Groves, and Jim Hefley, the last remaining members of the task force that created the corporation, resigned from the governing board, per requirements of the group’s bylaws.
Originally slated to resign in October, the trio continued on when the county, Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody failed to come through with enough representatives to constitute a new board.
Seven of 11 board positions are now filled with the addition Monday of Peabody representative Merlyn Entz and Hillsboro representative Clint Seibel. Marion and Hillsboro have one appointment each remaining. Two at-large representatives will be selected by the group.
Board members attempted to end a stalemate with Marion over paying its $44,500 commitment for 2018 by approving responses written by board member David Mueller to six operational questions previously posed by Heitschmidt about funding commitments, legal services, budget, bylaws, and open meetings and records.
Three additional questions will be addressed later in a revised business plan, Mueller said.
Holter indicated the response would not be considered without an attached budget, which the group approved later in the meeting.
Board members also questioned when Hillsboro and Peabody would make good on invoices delivered in December.
“I haven’t received any checks from anybody yet,” treasurer Jared Jost said. “Hillsboro will be getting us a check here pretty quick; they’ll be paying on a monthly basis. The commissioners told me they would be paying quarterly. As for as the city of Marion and the city of Peabody, I haven’t had a response as of this time.”
Peabody previously had withheld its initial $7,500 contribution over a dispute about board representation.
“Peabody is having a meeting this evening,” Peabody representative Hannah Bourbon said. “I think the check would be accomplished after the meeting and then another amount will come sometime in February.”
After the meeting, Bourbon attended Peabody city council to forcefully follow through on obtaining the $7,500.
““I’m not representing the right place if you’re not able to go forth with what we’ve spoken for, so if you can’t decide to go forth with what you’ve already agreed on I’m putting in my resignation to be effective Friday,” she told council members.
Bourbon reinforced that the bylaws hadn’t ever officially changed, which meant that public officials and employees still could not serve on the board.
Council members Rick Reynolds and Travis Wilson remained skeptical.
“I’m not a firm believer in it,” Wilson said. “There’s too much back and forth for me to be comfortable dropping that money.”
“Do you want me to dig out texts to show you that they were changed?” Reynolds asked.
“That’s fine, I’ll did out some texts, too,” Bourbon responded. “It wasn’t ever technically changed.”
Bourbon said if the council would not back her, she was ready to move on.
“I don’t not back you,” Wilson said. “I don’t back the others up there.”
Mayor Larry Larsen asked again if the bylaws were the original ones.
“If they are, we need to support her and thank her for representing us,” Larsen said. “If this is successful, it could be the beginning of a snowball effect.”
Council members agreed to proceed with the $7,500 payment, with Reynolds expressing support for Bourbon.
“We have faith,” he said. You have a strong opinion and voice. We need that.”
In other MCCEDC business:
- A working budget of $255,000 was approved, including $80,000 in salary and $24,000 in benefits for an executive director, $25,000 for administration, $20,000 for marketing, and $50,000 for events and travel. When hired, a permanent executive director can recommend revisions to the board.
- Emprise Bank in Hillsboro appeared to be the leading contender to house the group’s office. Options at St. Luke Hospital and Salem Home also were discussed, and action was deferred pending receipt of additional information.
- An interview with an executive director candidate was scheduled for Thursday. Ensey said Insights Career Consultants has screened two additional candidates. The board agreed to pay a portion of relocation expenses for a successful candidate.
- After a 25-minute executive session for personnel matters to consider an application, the board voted to begin recruitment for an administrative assistant.