Another Economic Development Mess

September 08, 1994

When it comes to making decisions about economic development, Carroll County's board of commissioners seems to make a mess of things. Even though the commissioners talk enthusiastically about the need to develop jobs and economic opportunity in Carroll, they turned the selection of a new economic development director into a fiasco that could hurt the county's efforts to attract and retain businesses.

The commissioners asked a three-member panel of county business leaders to review all the applications, interview the most promising candidates and then rate them, but in the end Donald I. Dell and Julia W. Gouge chose to ignore the panel's choices. After the panel's first selection turned down the job, the committee recommended a second candidate. But Commissioner Dell harbored reservations. At his insistence, his fellow commissioners offered the position to a person who was a finalist but did not come as highly recommended by the search panel.

Why have a methodical and systematic personnel process if the commissioners are going to chuck it all at will? Arthur Peck, Paul Denton and Michael Burden, the businessmen who devoted their time and effort to the search for the new economic development director, must be wondering why they ever bothered.

The commissioners don't have to be bound by these citizen committees, but they seem to routinely ignore their findings. When the Waste-to-Energy Committee recommended more (P composting and recycling to handle the county's solid waste disposal needs, the commissioners shelved the report and called for further study. If the commissioners solicit advice from citizens, they really ought to do a more careful job of considering the findings.

This convoluted selection process also has unnecessarily burdened the new director, John T. "Jack" Lyburn Jr., with baggage that will make his new job all the more difficult. Obviously, he was not the first choice of Carroll's business community. He will have to convince them that they were mistaken about his qualifications for the job.

Since the commissioners give contradictory signals about economic development, Mr. Lyburn will also have to work twice as hard to convince prospective businesses that Carroll is serious about economic development.

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