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County economic chairman resigns

Hernandez steps aside so others can ‘shine through’

News editor

Chris Hernandez, chairman of the nascent Marion County Economic Development Corporation, resigned from the board Tuesday, saying it was time for others to take the lead.

His resignation came after making a successful pitch Monday to Peabody city council for an annual $25,000 commitment for five years to the corporation.

“I feel like my talents have been utilized to their fullest,” Hernandez said in an exclusive interview. “My strengths are encapsulating the vision. At the end of the day when I’m done speaking, people get it. That work is done. I think it’s time for me to step aside and let other people’s talents shine through.”

County commissioners committed $165,000 annually to the corporation, which grew out of a task force appointed by commissioners and led by Hernandez. The city of Marion is on board for $44,500 annually.

“The hard work has been done,” Hernandez said. “The hard work was to bring unity to the county. That’s over. This board will be a compilation of the divides. You’re going to have Peabody sitting in with Marion and the county.”

Missing from the list of contributors, and therefore the corporation board, is Hillsboro, the county’s largest city.

“We’ve been asked to work with Hillsboro Development Corporation in Hillsboro, and we’re not going to disrespect the wishes of the mayor,” Hernandez said. “Hillsboro’s pulled their weight for the last 40 years. We’re not going to push our way into their city council.”

Hernandez was asked if the unity he described could be damaged if the corporation brought a new business to Hillsboro instead of Marion or Peabody.

“I hope not,” Hernandez said. “I’ve said a hundred times that if we can bring jobs and we locate the best destination within our borders, it should be that location, and if that best location is Hillsboro, so be it. Even with Hillsboro being out of the corporate board structure, who wouldn’t jump at the chance of a business in Hillsboro?”

Interim board members Russell Groves, Jim Hefley, Rod Koons, Jared Jost, and Craig Dodd, all of Hillsboro, Roger Holter and Tammy Ensey of Marion, and Judy Mills of Florence remain to help recruit their replacements for a permanent board to be seated in October.

“As soon as the prospective board is in place, the attention will shift to the active recruitment of a director,” vice chairman Holter said. “It is our desire that the permanent board be in place to do the interviews and final selction process.”

Hernandez said that if he could devote sufficient time to his business, Edward Jones Investments in Marion, over the upcoming four months, he would be willing to come back to the board as an appointed representative.

“I don’t want that to be a signal to say, ‘Nominate me,’ because if there’s someone else they want to nominate, that won’t hurt my feelings,” Hernandez said. “It’s the funders who decide. Let them do their thing. All that’s up to the board.”

Holter said he appreciated Hernandez’s contributions and leadership.

“All organizations evolve over time,” Holter said. “I’m sure others will step up to take leadership roles and move us across the finish line.”

Last modified June 14, 2017

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