Kent economic development director applicants under review

Carley Hull

The City of Kent will soon begin the review process of applications to choose a new economic development director.

The application deadline ended last Friday, according to the City of Kent’s website, and the position has been vacant for more than a year following the extended illness and death of former director Dan Smith.

“We’re looking for a person that brings a sense of optimism, energy and community pride to the job first and foremost,” Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said in an email. “The administrative expertise can be learned over time.”

The economic development director “works to promote the maintenance and expansion of the local economic base and your investment in Kent,” according to the City of Kent website.

Duties include providing assistance to existing businesses, facilitating the creation of business startups and attracting new businesses within the City of Kent.

Selecting a new economic development director

Seventeen applicants are in the process of being reviewed, and they will be selected and scheduled for interviews as soon as possible, said Human Resources Manager Elizabeth Zorc. Zorc, Ruller and Community Development Director Bridget Susel will review the applications.

Applicants include 17 Ohioans, neighboring states like Illinois and states as far as Connecticut, Zorc said. Salary ranges from $64,396 to $80,790 for the new director, according to the City of Kent website.

“I’m hoping the process is as quick as possible but depending on where the candidate is relocating from, it could be the end of the year before our new economic development director comes on board,” Ruller said.

The city advertised the position on Ohio Job on The Record-Courier’s website, local newspapers and organization websites such as Ohio Conference for Community Development and the Ohio Community Development Association where job postings can be made, Zorc said.

“I found we get the best results by going to the websites of organizations that various candidates would belong to,” she said. “And most of these are free.”

Until the position is filled, Susel and Ruller will continue to divide the economic development director’s duties.

Filling the vacancy

The position has been vacant for more than a year due to Smith’s extended illness from brain cancer, Ruller said. Smith died in July at the age of 45 after a six-year run as economic development director.

“(Smith) inherently understood the privilege of what it meant to serve his community,” Ruller said in his blog Kent360 this summer. “He took that responsibility seriously, but he never took himself too seriously or let the daily grind beat him down. Dan provided our daily dose of optimism and together we used humor to laugh our way out of every insurmountable problem.”

Smith was responsible for much of downtown Kent’s revival and was awarded the key to the City of Kent in 2012, as well as the International Economic Development Council’s Silver Award in 2013 for his work.

Temporary employment was first used to fill Smith’s position, but continuity of workers was difficult, Ruller said, which lead him and Susel to divide the full-time duties of the position. Susel said in an email they are fulfilling these duties without more pay.

“Our positions have always been involved in (economic development) work so it was natural for us to pick up the slack,” Ruller said in an email.

Susel has carried forward numerous economic development jobs, including direct contact with existing business owners, assisting with site selection for new businesses and working with various stakeholders on the structuring of potential new projects, Susel said in an email.

Ruller said he continues to be involved in the larger projects like the downtown redevelopment.

“The increased workload has been a bit challenging at times,” Susel said in an email. “But it has been manageable, and the City has still been able to meet the needs of the (Kent’s) existing businesses and finalize new economic development initiatives, such as the new Marc’s and O’Reilly’s stores, which will create new job opportunities and generate capital investment in the community.”

Contact Carley Hull at [email protected].