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Berkeley County hires new development authority leader

January 09, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? Berkeley County's new development authority leader is a 43-year-old Huntington, W.Va., native who has left the state for professional opportunities only to return again ... and again and again.

Stephen L. Christian, of Anne Arundel County, Md., will replace Robert "Bob" T. Crawford, 74, who retired, effective Dec. 31.

"I think we're fortunate to find somebody with his background and his experience in economic development," said Stephen Cox, the Development Authority's board president. "We're happy to have him."

Cox said Christian's formal start date had not been set. Christian will be paid $83,000 annually, $13,000 more than Crawford's salary, according to officials familiar with the hiring, which was formally approved Wednesday by Cox and Development Authority board members.

Christian was one of 16 applicants for the job, which was first advertised in August, according to Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Hammond, who chaired a personnel committee of Development Authority board members.

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"I've known him for a long time," Crawford said of his relationship with Christian when his replacement worked for the West Virginia Development Office. Crawford said they worked together to bring Orgill Inc. and the Ralph Lauren Childrenswear distribution center to Berkeley County.

"He's a good guy," Crawford said.

Describing the job as a "magnificent opportunity" that he just couldn't pass up, Christian said Berkeley County is No. 2 in a lot of categories in West Virginia and the most "dynamic" jurisdiction of all.

"I am very excited about this opportunity to return to West Virginia," said Christian, who left the state development office in March 2000. He had worked there for three years.

After graduating from Syracuse University in 1987, Christian worked in West Virginia and Virginia before he moved to San Diego to work at an electronics manufacturing company, he said Wednesday.

Christian said he was recruited by Gov. Cecil Underwood to return to West Virginia in 1997. Since then, Crawford said Christian was involved in recruitment of more than 10,000 new jobs and $150 million in West Virginia and Maryland, where he relocated to accept a similar opportunity.

In Montgomery County, Md., Christian worked to expand a biotechnology cluster and telecommunications industries before being hired as a business development specialist for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission in June 2003.

In a 2003 interview with The Herald-Mail, Christian said Washington County reminded him of where he grew up in Cabell County, W.Va.

"It kind of grew up the same time Hagerstown did," Christian said of Huntington. "It felt like I was coming back to my roots."

Christian most recently has been involved in commercial and residential real estate in Anne Arundel County, according to Crawford's announcement on Wednesday.

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