Director, assistant are out at Island County EDC

Two elected officials see the resignations of the Island County Economic Development’s two staff members as an opportunity.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, who are both on the EDC board, said they would like to take a step back and take a hard look at the organization to define what its role should be. They also want to look at the director’s job description and expectations.

“We have an opportunity now to get everybody going on the same page,” Price Johnson said.

EDC Director Ron Nelson and Program Director Sami Postma both gave their resignations and will be leaving on the same day, according to Price Johnson and Severns. Nelson has plans to become a big rig driver, Price Johnson said.

Nelson could not be reached for comment.

The EDC is a nonprofit organization that promotes and assists business growth.

“Services and resources are given to new and existing businesses that employ local residents, purchase local products and services,” according to EDC’s website.

The EDC is funded through a few different sources. Island County provides the organization with an annual grant of $75,000 from Rural Counties Development Fund, also known as “0.09 funds.”

In the past, county commissioners have questioned how they can measure what the EDC accomplished with the money. Some community leaders disagreed about whether the organization should focus on recruiting new businesses or helping existing businesses.

Severns said Nelson was “somewhat uncomfortable” with recruiting new businesses because past experiences hadn’t been successful. Severns said there’s still some potential to recruit, but he feels the most important thing is to support existing businesses.

Price Johnson agreed that the EDC can have a balanced approach, but she plans to meet with the mayors on the island to discuss the issues.

“I think the EDC can help to show Island County as an attractive place to do business for island-sized businesses,” she said.

Price Johnson said Nelson and Postma did a great job of stabilizing the organization at a difficult time.

The EDC had financial problems when Nelson took over in 2010, partly because a former staffer allegedly embezzled from the organization.

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