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Hensley to resign as EDB director

During a meeting of the Joint Economic Development Board (EDB) of Unicoi County, town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley announced she would be resigning as executive director of the board on Jan. 31.
“This is because I was elected mayor and I think it would be a conflict of interest,” Hensley said. “I feel I would be more of an asset as a voting member than the director. I’m going to be focusing on my duties as the mayor.”
In a letter to Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, ETSU’s Vice Provost for Research and Sponsored Programs William R. Duncan offered to extend contributions to Director of Community Outreach and Economic Development Tish Oldham’s position if she were to be named executive director of the EDB. The position’s salary and benefits are already fully funded by ETSU for three years at $60,000.
“Should the Board decide to offer the role of Executive Director of the Board to the present incumbent of the position, Ms. Patricia Oldham, and contribute the Executive Director’s salary toward the cost of the position, ETSU agrees to extend the time that ETSU will pay the costs of the position,“ the letter states. “ETSU is highly committed to partnering with Unicoi County in economic development efforts and we are very pleased that the Board may consider making Ms. Oldham Executive Director of the Board.”
The decision was tabled for a future meeting, said Hensley.
“We did not decide what we’re going to do because we’re not sure how much support [Oldham] will be needing in her job,” Hensley said. “When we begin preparing our budget we will include $20,000 to be used to either extend or provide her some support.”
Discussion of the board’s 2013 budget was also tabled. Hensley said she will meet with Oldham on Dec. 26 to create a proposed budget for the board to vote on for an upcoming meeting.
Oldham updated board members on her progress, while also encouraging the board’s progress for next year.
Oldham said she has made attempts to reach out to existing industries in the county and will be setting up appointments through January to meet with all of them.
“I feel it’s very important to put a face with a name,” Oldham said.
Throughout the meeting, emphasis was placed on the board’s plan of action for the new year. Oldham suggested the board create a detailed plan projecting their goals 1-5 years into the future.
Oldham also suggested hosting a workshop to include stakeholders in the community with hopes that it generates interest from the community and points of interest the board can be working on.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Hensley said. “We’ve not had one of those in almost four years.”
The board agreed they should hold a workshop at the beginning of the year to define and take action on goals that have been discussed in the past multiple times, according to town of Erwin City Recorder Randy Trivette.
Trivette said duties need to be assigned to individuals in order to complete the board’s goals.
“We’ve spent a lot of hours coming up with our top five priorities or our top 10 priorities and then it doesn’t go anywhere from that,” Trivette said.
Oldham said the board needs to move into the action planning stage with their goals.
“Taking those items that you already have and using those as general subject areas, you have to break out the goal into action items so that then each one of those particular things has something that needs to be accomplished,” Oldham said.
One way Oldham said the board will be successful is by recruiting businesses and the community to pitch in ideas and support their efforts. Oldham said in her experience some of the best teams were people in the community working on their own time to ensure the community progressed with a collective vision in mind.
“They were volunteers,” Oldham said. “Their No. 1 job was to keep things moving forward so I think the best way to get the community involved is to empower folks to feel like they can participate with you all.”
Oldham announced that a partnership was created between a downtown Erwin business and East Tennessee State University.
“I’m happy to say that we already have an ETSU and downtown merchant project,” Oldham said.
Oldham said Bob Justice with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center is going to be working with Stegall’s Pottery and Crafts. Oldham said business development workshops will be provided and they will include social media training.
“There’s a group of students that will be working with that group,” Oldham said. “They are excited and I think Bob Justice is pleased to do this.”
Oldham said the most interesting part of the partnership involves a past relationship between the two entities.
“[Justice] had worked with them 20 years ago in a different city in a different state and so here we are full circle,” Oldham said. “So I think that says a lot about the value of that type of interaction that 20 years later they would want to continue to work with not only [Justice] but the students as well.”
Also, Stegall’s Pottery will be providing gifts for the Regional Industrial Association Legislative Breakfast to be held Jan. 4.
“Stegall’s Pottery will be in the hands of those legislators as of Jan. 4,” Oldham said.
The board also reviewed the 2012 budget. Hensley said the remaining balance for 2012 is $53,821.
The board’s cash-on-hand balance as of Dec. 18 was reported as $29,730.73.
“We were under budget and that’s good,” Hensley said. “We still have some money from the county that still needs to be paid.” Hensley said the amount the county owes the board for 2012 is around $6,000.
Hensley also reminded the board that they will select new appointees in January.
The EDB Executive Committee will meet on Jan. 18 to discuss upcoming plans, which require action.
The full EDB will meet on Jan. 25, which will be the first full meeting of the year.
As for a workshop to include members of the community, Hensley said the board is looking for it to be held sometime in February. Hensley said the meeting may be held in a series which will touch on various concentrations like industry, tourism and downtown retail.
“We feel this will work better because everyone has their own personal interests,” Hensley said.
Hensley said she is excited to remain a part of the EDB’s initiatives through her position with the town of Erwin.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Hensley said.

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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