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PEDC begins process of finding new director

David Turner
David Turner

As the search for a new director for the Paris Economic Development Corp. gets under way, one board member is encouraging the organization to seek a “potential superstar” — rather than a star already made.

“Our economic circumstances have changed so drastically from four or five years ago when we were flush with cash,” board member David Turner said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re no longer flush with cash.”

Turner is part of an ad hoc committee on PEDC’s organizational structure, along with City Councilman John Wright and Bill Strathern, a former councilman who publicly questioned the direction PEDC made under former Director Steve Gilbert last year.

The committee has been charged with fashioning a job description for the new director. Turner said the committee has spent a great deal of time discussing the traits PEDC needs in its next hire.

Until one is found, Assistant Director Shannon Barrentine was named interim director effective Feb. 1. During the course of her expanded duties, her salary is increased by $1,500 a month.

“We do not want to just put an ad in some journal. We want to contact people we know who might possibly know someone who would work,” Turner said. “To put it in baseball terms, what we’re going to look for is some potential superstar at the 2A level. We’re not going to get a superstar on what we can afford.”

He said PEDC should look for someone young and “aggressive” who would be eager to get a few years of experience with an organization like the Paris Economic Development Corp. before moving on to something bigger.

In November, Turner said something similar about finding a person who was “young, bright, bushy-tailed and aggressive” to steer government contracts to Paris.

The committee’s discussion apparently also ventured into the sorts of projects PEDC needs to go after.

“We think of industrial jobs; non-farm industrial jobs only make up 10 percent of this country’s jobs now,” Turner said. “It’s more of a service, digital economy.”

He said PEDC needs to look for companies that could work in conjunction with existing employers, such as a cheese manufacturer to work with Daisy Dairy. He also said Paris needs an inpatient drug rehabilitation center for women. The closest such is south of Waco, and a 100-bed facility would provide 60 jobs and a payroll in excess of $1 million, he said.

The ad hoc committee should have a draft of the director’s job description by the next meeting, Turner said. How much the job might pay is unknown, he said, but Wright has advocated an incentive system to go with a base salary.

“We’re all of a mind to pay a nice, living wage where you can live and raise a family, but there’s a nice gold ring out there if you hit a home run,” Turner said.

The board also officially accepted Bruce Carr’s resignation, effective Jan. 28. With his departure, the board needed a new vice chair. That office fell on the board’s newest member, Stephen Grubbs — who was not at the meeting.

“I want to table that until next meeting, because I want Steve Grubbs in there,” Turner said. After some discussion, he changed his mind: “I withdraw that motion, and I nominate Brother Grubbs.”

Board member Vicki Ballard seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.