Board President Dean tapped to fill paid EDC Director position
By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
The last two hires for the Executive Director of the City’s Economic Development Corp. lasted less than a year. Now the Board is recommending a candidate from its own ranks, Lance Dean.
The EDC Board voted unanimously in a special meeting last Thursday to recommend that City Council approve the employment of Dean, who currently serves as the Board’s president.
The Executive Director acts as a business recruiter and promoter for the City in accordance with a more general role, which is to oversee the EDC’s mission in creating a fertile environment for jobs and economic growth.
City Council will decide whether to accept the EDC’s recommendation on March 13. City Administrator Greg Boatright said he expects no objections.
In the event that he is hired, Dean will be required to resign from the seven-member board he has served on for four years. The Board will name a new President, and the Council will consider a new appointment to the Board.
The full-time position carries with it a $70,000 salary, which was set in the budget several years ago when Kirk Clennan served in the role.
At the EDC meeting, Dean’s qualification for the office was strongly expressed by several members. Boatright said the original decision to bring Dean onto the Board was the “best thing Frank ever did,” referring to former EDC President Frank Spinosa.
EDC Director Jack Harkrider said that given Dean’s current experience and the recognition he might receive as Executive Director, “he might be called upon by the state or the nation to help, that’s how strong a candidate he is.”
Director Bill Chapman, on making the motion to nominate him, said that Dean could provide the EDC and city with a “proactive vision for the future.”
The vote came after a 45-minute executive session, which was immediately called when the meeting began. The discussion was the only item on the special meeting agenda.
The two previous employees in the position left for unrelated reasons after less than a year.
Clennan was hired in the summer of 2015, but was asked to resign eight months later after it became apparent that city officials and Clennan had different ideas about what development was needed. In one example Boatright mentioned at Thursday’s meeting, Clennan attempted to secure a factory that needed several hundred skilled workers, which Liberty Hill does not have.
The next executive director was Gilianne Carter Thomas, who is the daughter of U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. But four months after being hired in September 2016, she left to accept an offer from the Pedernales Electric Co-Op to serve as a lobbyist.
Dean will be the first candidate recommended by the Board from their own ranks.
Chapman said that Dean never campaigned for the position, but that the Board drafted him. Chapman also described Dean as “deeply methodical” and a “behind-the-scenes kind of guy.”
The move to nominate him comes a month after the City Council approved a recommendation by the EDC to hire a firm to put together a marketing package for prospective businesses.
Last month, Dean attended a conference near Houston by the Texas Economic Development Council for prospective city developers. The program, which helps with the certifications required for the position, were paid for by Dean out of his own pocket. Additionally, he has enrolled in classes for the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, set to begin next month.
Dean, who has lived in Liberty Hill for five years, has a 20-year background in business doing project management and consulting. His clients and employers have included AT&T and a technology firm in China, where he moved to for a period in the early 2000s. Since 2000, he and his wife have run their own consulting firm.
Dean said that the EDC reminds him, in many ways, of the startups that he has worked with in the past.
“This is a sales position. You’re marketing the city to companies, you’re recruiting, you’re selling,” he said.
He said he first became interested in the EDC after reading about it in the newspaper. At the time, he said, its activities were dramatic, and he began attending meetings as a private citizen.
In 2013, he was appointed to the Board, and in 2015, was elected by the Board as its president.
Dean has also served on the Liberty Hill Public Library’s Board of Directors since 2016, and on the city’s Unified Development Code Committee since 2016.