Sometime this spring – that’s the time frame for having a new economic-development director on board in Waynesboro.
“We’ve developed a recruitment profile, and we’re going ahead with advertising after the holidays,” assistant city manager Jim Shaw told me this week, laying out the plan for filling the position left vacant by the departure of former economic-development director Meghan Williamson on Aug. 1.
The process for replacing Williamson got bogged down when Vice Mayor Frank Lucente suggested last year that the position could work better for the city under the purview not of the city manager and City Council but instead the Economic Development Authority. Authority members eventually told council members that they didn’t agree with Lucente’s proposal, and a joint committee comprised of EDA members and City Council members nixed another push from Lucente to more directly involve Redevelopment and Housing Authority executive director Eddie Delapp.
Things were so bogged down on this that council members were still not sure when they met before Christmas where things were heading or even if they had given direction to city manager Mike Hamp as to how to proceed regarding initiating a process for replacing Williamson.
“It’s an issue in the community. You’ve got to hire an EDA director, and that’s important,” Lucente said at the Dec. 18 work session of City Council in which the matter was most recently discussed. “I’m not against hiring an economic-development director. I just feel like if we hire one, we’ve got to have a plan of what that person is going to do, and not just hire somebody and hope something sticks,” Lucente said.
City Councilwoman Nancy Dowdy objected to that characterization from Lucente. Fellow Councilwoman Lorie Smith then pointed to Hamp. “It’s under your purview to administer personnel issues, not the council’s,” Smith said. “We certainly want to be involved in terms of the direction and the strategy as to how we pursue economic development in the city, but I think it’s ultimately your decision as to who you hire.”
Mayor Tim Williams said he had left the October meeting with the EDA thinking that “every EDA member and every council member said to move ahead.” “We need to give Mr. Hamp a clear directive to proceed. And it sounds to me like we probably have a consensus to have Mike move forward with the process that I think you’ve already started,” Williams said.
The plan for moving forward laid out to me by Shaw has the city taking applications for the next four to six weeks, scheduling interviews at some point six weeks out from now, then making a final decision on a hire and getting that person in place in City Hall 12-15 weeks out overall.
– Story by Chris Graham