By SHELLY WILKISON
In a special called meeting Wednesday, the Board of Directors of the City’s Economic Development Corp. voted to recommend the City Council appoint a local real estate broker and a former council member to fill two vacancies on the panel.
The Board considered five nominees, including City Council member Vicki Brewer, but only cast two unanimous votes — for Shane White and Jack Harkrider.
White is a real estate broker for RE/MAX Realty and Harkrider is a former council member, retired school teacher and journalist.
On Jan. 14, the Council agreed to allow the EDC Board to meet and come up with its own suggestions for individuals to fill the two open seats on the panel. The panel’s nominees will now go to the Council for consideration.
With all directors present Wednesday, in addition to Mayor Jamie Williamson and Councilman Wendell McLeod, the Board discussed each nominee sharing both positives and negatives on each candidate.
The nomination of Council member Brewer was discussed at length before the panel voted 3-2 against recommending her for the seat.
Director Cathy Cantrell placed her name before the Board suggesting that it was important that at least one Council member serve on the panel. Her motion had the support of Director Valerie Zapien.
“We need to have one (council member) on the Board to give us insight. None of us have time to go to council meetings. I agree that three (council members) was too many. Without it (a council member appointee), we are a stick in the mud. This year proved that,” said Mrs. Cantrell.
Mrs. Cantrell served as EDC President prior to Spinosa.
“We have to have their (the Council’s) support or we’re not going anywhere,” she said, adding that having an elected official would give the Board insight on the Council’s views.
EDC President Frank Spinosa said he had no problem with a council member serving on the panel, but believed that person should not be a voting member.
Mrs. Cantrell’s support of Mrs. Brewer was similar to arguments presented by Mayor Williamson to the Council last week when she recommended Mrs. Brewer be appointed to the panel. At the time, Council members Byron Tippie and McLeod expressed opposition to having a member of the council serve on a committee. No one made a motion to appoint Mrs. Brewer, but instead agreed to let the EDC Board come up with its own recommendations.
In previous Council meetings, Mrs. Brewer and Mayor Williamson have advocated that Spinosa’s term on the EDC Board not be renewed. However, the idea did not have the support of the Council.
Director Brian Butler recommended White for the position. He said White’s background in real estate would be a plus for the EDC Board. White is a former member of the Emergency Services District Board and Butler said that experience in public office would also be beneficial.
Mrs. Zapien said she was concerned that White might not have the time to devote to the EDC, but cast her vote in favor of his recommendation.
Director John Johnston nominated Harkrider. He said Harkrider’s previous experience on the council would be helpful.
“I don’t always agree with Jack, but I’ve found him to be an honest, straight-forward guy, and I’ve come to respect that,” said Spinosa.
“I’m not sure that the Council will be open to Jack,” said Mrs. Cantrell.
Harkrider was a candidate for Mayor against Mrs. Williamson last May.
Spinosa said it would be wrong “if we have city council members making judgments on (candidates’) personalities as opposed to their abilities.”
Mrs. Zapien nominated Dr. Thad Gillespie, a local dentist and her employer. She cited Gillespie’s involvement in the community and his service as PAC Chair for the 2010 school bond campaign, along with his experience as a business owner as qualifications for an appointment.
“He is the reason I’m so involved in this and the Chamber,” she said, adding that she plans to resign from the Board and Gillespie would “take my place.”
Butler seconded the motion, but the nomination failed by a 3-2 vote.
Mrs. Zapien also suggested Cory Dirkson for the appointment. Dirkson is Director of Marketing for the Austin Toros and resides in the Liberty Hill area. Because no one on the Board knew him, his nomination failed to get a second.
Mrs. Zapien suggested others for service, but realized they did not qualify because they did not reside in the area.