The Sherman Economic Development Corp.’s new president said he’ll “hit the ground running” when he starts in the position on Jan. 7.
The SEDCO board of directors officially hired Kent Sharp, who is currently the chief executive officer of the Development Corporation of Abilene, during a special meeting Tuesday morning. Sharp called it an “honor” to be selected for the position.
“I’m just excited to get started — I wish I were starting earlier,” Sharp said, explaining he and his wife have a philosophy of starting well and ending well. “And we want to finish in Abilene well and help the DCOA board and City Council transition.”
The SEDCO board asked Sharp a number of questions at the beginning of the meeting before going into an executive session to discuss his candidacy for the position. Last week, SEDCO issued a press release stating Sharp the was only remaining finalist for the job. After the closed session Tuesday, the board approved Sharp’s hiring unanimously.
“My goal is to understand what the board’s expectations are, what the City Council’s expectations are and then try to align my goals and expectations with theirs,” Sharp said. “I think the citizens here expect a continued good, stable growth, predictable growth, so that you can manage infrastructure and you can manage all those things that comes with growth.”
Sharp said he believes in having a balanced approach to economic development.
“You’ve got to have quality of life,” he said. “You can’t just have jobs, jobs, jobs — it’s got to be good paying jobs and there’s got to be a quality of life element too, so people want to live in the community.”
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.
Sherman City Manager Robby Hefton praised Sharp’s selection during Tuesday’s meeting.
“From the city management standpoint, I want to express my appreciation to the (search) committee who spent many hours, many days and who was committed to getting it right,” Hefton said. “I just want to thank the committee for being dedicated to taking the time necessary, not just to fill the position with a warm body so to speak, but getting the right person for Sherman. I believe you’ve done a great job of getting the right person for Sherman.”
Before taking the position with the DCOA in September 2014, Sharp spent eight years in charge of the Gainesville Economic Development Corp., where he was responsible for major deals with Select Energy Headquarters, Orteq Technologies, GAF and Trident Process Systems.
Board member Janie Bates, who serves as executive director of Workforce Solutions Texoma, said she worked with Sharp when he was in Gainesville and recommended SEDCO approach him about the president position vacancy.
“I can tell you that he did a lot of progressive things there,” Bates said of Sharp’s time with the GEDC. “I think we’ve got a great selection and we’re going to have great success.”
Among his accomplishments with the DCOA 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.
Sharp also served as lead economic developer in Big Spring from 1998-2006 and worked in Stamford and Shamrock.