By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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In an unanimous vote at the development council board's Thursday meeting, members authorized the council's officer to develop a interim director contract, for no longer than 120 days, with Tim Smith, who ran economic development efforts for the city of Port Angeles from 1999 to 2004.
“We don't have a contract yet, but I understand we'll be negotiating one,” Smith said in an interview after the meeting.
One of the interim executive director's main tasks for next year: leading planning efforts for large-scale “visioning” meetings to be lead by the development council, or EDC, and involve numerous stakeholders in the local economic development community.
Rotmark, the nonprofit agency's executive director for almost nine years, announced last fall that she is retiring at the end of this month.
Smith was the city's first economic development director, capping off a 30-year career in which he served in nine different positions in six different city departments.
Smith, 59, said he was looking forward to sharing his economic development experience with the EDC.
“I'm here to do what I can to help in the economic development discussion we know is going to take place soon,” Smith said.
Smith, who is retired but manages a handful of commercial properties in Port Angeles, would likely begin work as the development council's interim executive director Jan. 3 but might start shadowing Rotmark at the EDC office before the year ends.
Rod Fleck, Forks city planner and attorney and second vice president of the development council, said he has been in contact with Smith for the past month after Smith offered his service to the development council as interim director.
Fleck said Smith indicated he would be willing to work between 30 and 40 hours per week and would request 60 percent of the Rotmark's salary, which Rotmark said is $75,000 per year.
Charlie Brandt, development council board president, said the search for a permanent executive director is expected to be the focus of the board's Jan. 16 meeting.
Brandt said the intent of the visioning meetings Smith will help organize is to gather varied interests, including the development council's funding partners and business representatives, to determine how best to move forward with collective economic development efforts.
He said the meetings will not directly address consolidation of the different economic development entities in the region.
“It's not about reorganization, it's not about elimination,” Brandt said.
It's about understanding what everybody's doing, understanding where want to go in terms of the big pushes, and identify, given that direction, who has pieces [for] delivering those big outcomes.”
Though the economic development board voted unanimously to begin planning work for these meetings, some members had reservations.
Doug Sellon, executive director of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe economic development authority and EDC board member, said he wanted to ensure these visioning meetings did not duplicate the efforts of a similar EDC-led summit in 2010.
“I want to make sure we have a commitment and that this is not just another effort where we have a nice big meeting and nothing happens,” Sellon said.
Jim Calhoun, Port of Port Angeles commissioner and EDC board member, said he felt the 2010 summit was a success as it identified four main areas — forestry, marine trades, advanced manufacturing and renewable energy — on which the development council should focus its job creation and retention efforts.
Calhoun said another such meeting is likely needed as representatives from many of the EDC stakeholders, such as city council members, have changed since then.
“I think it's really the role of this EDC to lead and organize [such meetings] for the community,” Calhoun said.
Sequim Mayor Ken Hays, also an EDC board member, said he would like to the meetings address specific priorities and goals for the development council itself before addressing economic development efforts on a larger scale.
Kaj Ahlburg, representing the Port Angeles Business Association on the EDC board, said he thought a larger vision was needed before the development council's priorities can be re-addressed.
“I'm not quite sure you can come up with a workable vision for the EDC if you don't have an underlying vision for what economic development for the larger community looks like,” Ahlburg said.
Brandt said the development council would hire an independent facilitator to lead the meetings, adding the administration of Peninsula College has offered to provide a venue for the meetings.
Peninsula College President Luke Robins said meeting attendees will have to be able to provide information on the specific economic development plans already developed by the entity they represent.
This will allow every group to share what they already have in place and identify common goals.
“The people who come to that meeting will need to have done their homework,” Robins said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.