County EDC gains new board members, director


Several new members were on hand when the Wood County Economic Development Commission met last Thursday. Wood County Judge Lucy Hebron had previously named Tom Keenan as a new member and as the chairman of the board of directors.

Kennan took control of the meeting for the night. New members in attendance were Rodney Kieke, Craig Lindholm, and Tom Callan. Other new members named, but not there, were Greg Hollen and Tommy Brown. Current members Allene Doggett and Joanne Wisdom were in attendance. Jarvis College representatives Gwendlyn Winters and Cynthia Stansil and Alba representative Miste Davis did not attend.

Former board member Jim Berry was re-appointed and named to the interim executive director’s post by Hebron. Berry has experience with economic development organizations and chambers of commerce in Texas and New Mexico.   

“Tom (Keenan) has generously agreed to lend his business talents and business expertise to this group and has offered and agreed to serve as chairman,” Hebron said. “I think that he is eminently qualified to serve in this capacity. Under his leadership, it is my hope that the Wood County EDC can turn a Blue Ribbon Tasks Force’s recommendation into a reality – to seek out an economic development professional as a new executive director. This goal is a critical item in planning for economic growth which our citizens, our businesses, our governments and our chambers deserve. If you are on this board or if you’re a member of the public, a paying taxpayer, a business owner, a resident, chamber or city official, man, woman, child, non-profit, in short, if you live, work or breathe in Wood County, you have a vested interest in the future of this county as one of its stakeholders.”

Hiring a new executive director is on the top of the list for the new board.

“If you support economic growth and business retention, all of which will be required to take our county to the next level, you need to let this board know, you need to let our county commissioners know so they can approve and authorize the necessary financial support to hire a professional executive director who’s got the required credentials, certifications and trainings to take our county to the next level, which is going to be needed in this fast-paced world,” Hebron explained.

Berry and Hollen will go over the process for hiring a new executive director using the job description set forth in the strategic plan. They will circulate the job description to “all the right places,” according to Hebron. 

“An issue has been raised about whether the board changes are authorized and whether the bylaws prohibit any changes,” Hebron said. “The current bylaws, which have been in existence over the years and have been amended, altered and gone through numerous changes are just that, bylaws or internal operating procedures established by this group and its membership. Whether this board decides to further amend, change, modify, alter or rescind the bylaws, which decision rests with this board. You can determine how and in what manner you’d like to run this organization.  The part of the bylaws reads as follows: (and I quote directly from the bylaws) ‘…Article 7.01 These bylaws may be altered, amended, repealed or added to by a majority of the membership.’ The only limitation is that the changes must be approved by the county judge and must be in compliance with the statutes.”

The board discussed the organization’s role in the June 2020 Bass Masters Toyota Texas Fest.

“Bass Masters takes care of the tournament and the television production. What they want is a host to take care of a two-day festival,” board member Neal Duncan said. “The WCEDC is the host and is partnering with the Sabine River Authority (SRA). We reached out to the Quitman Chamber of Commerce to handle the vendor space allocation. The WCEDC will handle sponsorships. We are starting with $50,000 from SRA, this organization is bringing in $25,000, and the Quitman Development Corporation (QDC) is putting in $10,000.” 

In other matters, the board discussed the possibility of supporting and being a host for Fishing University, a television show which will air 40 times on the Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network (WFN) in 2020.

The institute is seeking funds from the WCEDC, Lake Fork Sportsman’s Association, QDC, and Emory Economic Development Corporation. The total asked for is $6,500, or $1,625 from each organization. There was no action taken, and the matter will be placed on the February agenda.

The board approved an ad for the back page of the Destination East Texas Tourism Guide for $875. “Judge Hebron asked me to reach out to local economic development professionals and the feedback I got was it was money well spent. That it is a good ad for us,” Duncan added.

The 10,000 magazines are published by the Kilgore News-Herald and Wood Count Monitor and placed throughout visitor centers at the Texas-Oklahoma and Texas-Louisiana borders, East Texas chamber of commerce offices, area lodging establishments, restaurants and businesses.