Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
The Sherman Economic Development Corp. has narrowed the list of finalists for its vacant president position to just one.
The SEDCO Board of Directors will consider a contract for Kent Sharp, the current chief executive officer of the Development Corporation of Abilene, during a special meeting Tuesday.
“We view this as a homerun hire,” SEDCO board Chairman Brad Douglass said in a press release announcing Sharp as the last finalist. “Not only does Kent bring a quarter-century of experience in economic development to the table, he also has spent extensive time in North Texas and he knows this area very well. Kent is fully equipped to hit the ground running in 2019.”
Sharp informed the DCOA board of his plan to leave on Tuesday and the Abilene Reporter-News said he was expected to continue in his role with the Abilene agency through the remainder of the year.
The president position has been vacant since the SEDCO board accepted former President John Plotnik’s resignation in late February following an extended leave. Documents subsequently obtained by the Herald Democrat through a Texas Open Records Act request show Plotnik was given a $91,162 consulting agreement in exchange for his resignation amid allegations of misconduct.
For the past several months, SEDCO has been operating with just two full-time employees — SEDCO Executive Vice President Stacey Jones and Director of Research & Marketing Ashton Ghaemi — after longtime Executive Vice President Frank Gadek retired in June. Jones was promoted to the executive vice president position in August.
The SEDCO search committee brought in three finalists for the position on the Monday before Thanksgiving, after three previous candidates interviewed in person in October. Douglass, who is also heading up the search committee, said all three candidates brought in during November were from Texas.
Before taking the top job with the DCOA in September 2014, Sharp spent eight years at the helm of the Gainesville Economic Development Corp., where he was responsible for major deals with Select Energy Headquarters, Orteq Technologies, GAF and Trident Process Systems.
“When I left Gainesville to take the position in Abilene, I remember thinking that the thing I would miss most about the Texoma area was the team spirit that’s infused into the culture here,” Sharp said. “Grayson County has so many fantastic leaders who are focused on economic development — from Dr. Jeremy McMillan at Grayson College, to Janie Bates and her team at Workforce Solutions Texoma, to the ED teams in Whitesboro, Denison and Pottsboro. I’m just thrilled to be moving back among those people to focus on bringing quality, high-paying jobs to Sherman.”
While in Abilene, Sharp oversaw an annual budget of more than $12 million. Among his accomplishments in that position were expansion projects at Coca-Cola and AbiMar Foods that brought 800 new jobs and $77 million in investment, bringing in Prairie Dog Pet Products with 215 new jobs and $30 million in investment, and assisting Texas State Technical College with a $4 million matching grant and $12 million in revenue bonds to leverage a $20 million capital expenditure.
“I appreciate Kent’s track record and aptitude for creating and maintaining relationships within the community,” Sherman City Manager Robby Hefton said in a press release. “This relationship building is such a vital part of economic development because existing and prospective employers want to feel a personal connection to local leaders. I believe Kent will excel in this area.”
Sharp also served as lead economic developer in Big Spring from 1998-2006 and worked in Stamford and Shamrock. His teams have twice been awarded the Texas Community Economic Development Award, once in 2000 and once in 2016.
Sharp holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Texas Christian University. He has been a member of the Texas Economic Development Council since 1994 and a board member since 2015. Sharp and his wife Angela currently reside in Tuscola but plan to relocate to Sherman in the coming months. The couple has two children, Bailey and Austin, both of whom are grown.