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Commissioners reluctant to start EDC chief search

July 17, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Attempts to jump-start an immediate national search for a new executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission were thwarted Tuesday.

"Is this a position (executive director) we want to fill or another marketing position?" said Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook after hearing a lengthy appeal from EDC Chairman Doug Wright to start searching now for the position recently vacated by John Howard.

Howard, 63, the executive director of the EDC since September 1997, retired May 8.

The Washington County Commissioners accepted his retirement June 11, though he had been on paid administrative leave since March. Snook would not say why Howard was on administrative leave.

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Howard said in June that he voluntarily retired and went on leave while he tried to decide what to do next with his career. He said he has not decided what he will do, but he plans to find a new job.

Howard's annual salary was $82,067.

Tim Troxell, 36, EDC assistant director since Oct. 12, 1998, was named acting executive director.

Armed with figures provided by Wright, Commissioner Bert Iseminger Tuesday echoed Snook's reluctance to launch a national search for a director now.

"The figures show we've done well in recent years," Iseminger said.

Iseminger pointed to a plan recently submitted to the EDC to develop a plan to attract industries to the area around the airport, to which people would commute.

"That is still in the formative stage," Iseminger said.

Wright said he agrees it would be great to have people commuting into Washington County.

"The motto could be 'commute with the sun on your back, not in your eyes,'" Wright said.

But he stressed that doesn't just happen - such industries must be identified and actively sought.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said he agreed that prospective industries need to know what is here.

"If we drag our feet, we're going to sell Washington County short," Swartz said.

There was concern that now is not the right time to start a major campaign because of the sluggish economy.

"If the market ain't there, you can have the greatest salesmen and it won't matter," Commissioner John Schnebly said.

The commissioners hinted in June that they might decide to postpone the decision about the position until after the November elections. All five commissioners seats are on the November ballot.

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