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Half of Economic Development panel axed

Staff writer

Half of the 14 applicants invited to the first meeting of a new committee focused on economic development last week will no longer be voting members.

Remaining in the group will be:

  • Tammy Ensey, Marion, who owns travel agency and is co-owner of the Historic Elgin Hotel;
  • Jim Hefley, Hillsboro, who works in farming, real estate, and investments;
  • Craig Dodd, Hillsboro, owner of Chisholm Trail Outfitters;
  • Russell Groves, Hillsboro, owner of a real estate investment and development business;
  • Jared Jost, Hillsboro, owner of Jost Funeral Home;
  • Roger Holter, Marion, city administrator; and
  • Chris Hernandez, Marion, financial adviser for Edward Jones.

No longer designated as voting members are:

  • Esley Schmidt, Walton, who does farm related repairs;
  • Gene Winkler, Marion, owner of G&J Video;
  • Jane Pigorsch, Lincolnville, owner of Cakes by Jane;
  • John Wheeler, Marion, Marion city council member who works for Forest Products Supply in Newton;
  • Rod Koons, Hillsboro, owner of Rod’s Tire & Service;
  • Stan Thiessen, Hillsboro, former business owner who now works for Pfizer;
  • Todd Heitschmidt, Marion mayor, Central National Bank president and owner of a farming operation; and
  • Michele Hett, Marion, employed at Hett Construction.

Hernandez, who conducted what turned out to be a tryout meeting last week, told county commissioners Monday that he thought the meeting went well, although it had contentious moments.

“I thought people were going to put on boxing gloves a couple times,” Hernandez said.

He said there had been confusion and misunderstanding over what the commission wanted the committee to do.

County economic development director Teresa Huffman sat in on Hernandez’s discussion with commissioners but said nothing during the discussion.

Hernandez submitted a report on last week’s meeting and made recommendations about who to include on the committee

Holter did not attend last week, but Hernandez’s report said he had spoken to Holter afterward.

“Roger shared a well-thought-out vision for the new position of economic development director,” Hernandez’s report states. “He supported the vision of a joint venture with the county and the municipalities. Roger felt his strengths lie in planning, organization, and leadership.

“Chris reassured everyone of the task he was given for the meeting and let them know that the commissioners were yet to make a final decision for the steering committee. Finally, there is a feeling shared by more than a few participants that they expressed apprehension or concern that commissioners would at some point pull the rug out from under them midway through the planning or implementation process.”

The general public and those no longer on the committee will be welcome to attend future meetings, commissioner Dan Holub said.

“The more information and ideas we get, the better,” he said.

Commissioners originally sought a committee of five to seven but decided to invite all applicants before pruning the numbers Monday.

Holub said commissioners didn’t expect to be told what committee members thought commissioners want to hear.

“This is a republic,” Holub said.

Holub said commissioners want the committee to focus on job growth and let other issues such as housing come later.

Heitschmidt said he remains supportive of the effort to push county economic development.

“I received a call from commissioner Holub last week, and he did clarified that they would be narrowing the group, which the night of that meeting was not clear,” Heitschmidt said. “He asked how I thought the meeting went. I was an hour late. It was a good start to the process. Whether it was clear or not we knew the group was going to get smaller. I applied. I had wanted to be in the group. If they ask for a specific input, I’ll do it.”

Last modified June 29, 2016

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