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Leaders to review EDC

Commissioners want more control over economic development issues

As the search begins for a new economic developer, Beaufort County leaders say they want more control over local economic development activities.

“There’s concern among all the commissioners that we need a do-over,” said board Chairman Jerry Langley during a meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners earlier this week. “We cannot continue to do business the way we were doing it.”

The county has begun its search for a new economic developer to replace Tom Thompson, who announced his intent to retire from the post in June.

The deadline for applications is June 1.

The county and the Economic Development Commission’s Board of Directors are expected to seek candidates with experience and training related to economic-development activities, with a salary that will be directly related to a candidate’s experience.

Commissioners said Monday they want the chance to review candidates for the position.

Some suggested the EDC board could submit the names of two finalists for the post to the commissioners, while others said they wanted to see applications of all of those who are seeking the position.

Some county leaders also suggested there needs to be a clear chain of command, with the new economic development director reporting directly to County Manager Randell Woodruff.

Others suggested the county manager, in addition to the EDC board, be given the authority to dismiss the economic-development director.

In April, Thompson submitted a letter indicating his intention to retire June 30 to Evelyne Roberson, chairwoman of the Economic Development Commission. Thompson also submitted a similar letter to the Beaufort County Committee of 100.

The Beaufort County Committee of 100 is the private, nonprofit arm of the Economic Development Commission. The EDC operates with taxpayer funds.

In his 2012-2013 budget plan presented to the commissioners Monday, Woodruff recommended the county continue to contribute $195,031 to the EDC budget, the same as appropriated in the current fiscal year.

Woodruff noted that “any decreased contribution by local municipalities would require an increased county contribution or decrease in the EDC budget.”

Some commissioners on Monday said they favored a clearer delineation between the EDC and the Committee of 100 than has recently been the case.

Thompson has served as chief executive officer of the Beaufort County Committee of 100 and director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission since 2001.

While Thompson has been praised by many local leaders for his efforts in promoting the local economy, recently the EDC and the Committee of 100 have come under scrutiny by some area residents and county leaders who have questioned whether the county has been getting its money’s worth.

“I think it’s all wasted money,” said Commissioner Hood Richardson at Monday’s meeting.

The commissioners also agreed to a plan, put forward recently by the EDC Board of Directors, to review the organization’s bylaws and appointed Commissioner Ed Booth to be one of two county representatives on the review committee.

Booth will be joined on that committee by Commissioner Al Klemm, who also serves on the EDC board.