Board OKs changes to economic development panel

Published 8:28 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday night approved the reorganization of the county’s economic-development efforts, a move they hope will give them more control over those efforts.
The board voted 6-1 to approve bylaws for a newly organized Economic Development Advisory Board and 6-1 to approve a job description for the county’s economic-development director.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage cast the sole dissenting vote.
“I don’t think government should be in economic development,” Deatherage said in announcing his intention to vote against the proposals.
Under the new bylaws approved by the commissioners, the Economic Development Advisory Board will be comprised of 15 members, including eight members appointed by the commissioners and one member from each of the seven municipalities in the county.
Ex officio, or nonvoting, members of the board may be added at the discretion of the commissioners.
The terms of advisory-board members will be on a staggered basis, ensuring an appointment or reappointment each year.
The advisory board will carry out functions as “authorized or directed to perform by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners,” the bylaws state.
Under terms of the bylaws, members of the advisory board will be reimbursed for costs associated with carrying out their board duties.
The reorganization of the board comes after some six months of discussion over the future of economic-development activities in Beaufort County following the resignation of former Economic Development Commission Director Tom Thompson in June.
During Thompson’s last months as director, he faced increasing criticism from some residents and commissioners who questioned whether the EDC’s industrial-recruitment efforts were worth the money spent on them.
Some commissioners also complained that in his last years Thompson did not provide adequate information to the public about EDC’s publicly funded activities.
In November, former Lee County Economic Development Director Bob Heuts was appointed to the Beaufort County economic-development post.
In a related matter, the commissioners delayed appointing members to the new board pending a report from County Manager Randell Woodruff on a schedule of staggered terms for its members.
All commissioners attended the meeting.