EDC holds reception for executive director hopefuls

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

It has been nearly two years since the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation has had a permanent executive director at the helm, and that will likely change after two finalists interviewed for the position last week.
On Thursday, the EDC board of directors held a reception to which local stakeholders were invited for the opportunity to meet the two candidates for the position. 
Duane Lavery and wife, Dee, live in Atoka, Tenn., where he is the president and CEO of HTL Advantage, a three-county economic development organization which serves southwestern Tennessee. He has worked in the arena of economic development for about 25 years.  Lavery has a master’s degree in public administration from Arizona State University. 
He said he looks forward to the prospect of returning to Texas to work in economic development. 
“Texas is a great state for economic development, as are most of the southern states. I was here for 20 years before I went to Tennessee, and so I’ve got a lot of contacts. I was here when 4A and 4B (economic development corporations) started.”
Copperas Cove in particular appeals to Lavery. 
“I like its location in the center of the state, and being attached to Fort Hood. I spent a lot of time in Lubbock and Texarkana, I was working with BRAC (base realignment and closure),” said Lavery. “I’ve had a lot of exposure to the DOD and that whole process; I did the community side. Coming here was a good natural fit for me.” 
Jonas Titas and wife, Lessly, came from the Houston area, where Jonas serves as the Deputy Director of the Conroe Economic Development Corporation. 
He has worked in the realm of economic development for nearly 20 years.
“I love creating jobs and seeing something  tangible. When you see dirt being turned, people wearing a shirt from a company, it really makes you feel good.” 
As far as Copperas goes, Titas sees some positives where economic development is concerned.
“With The Narrows park and workforce, there’s a lot of things companies are looking for,” Titas said. “It’s in the right spot and has all the right tools.”
Titas has also served as the executive director of the Kerrville Economic Development Corporation and as an economic development specialist for the Tyler Economic Development Council. He has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. 
Lavery and Titas made the cut after an initial round of 22 applicants, which was then whittled to 11, with the two then being invited to Copperas Cove to meet in person. Stakeholders invited to Thursday’s reception included individuals such as Copperas Cove city council members, city department heads such as interim city manager Ryan Haverlah, Chief of Police Eddie Wilson, Fire Chief Michael Neujahr, and Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president Alicia Menard.
Adam Martin, EDC board president, said prior to Lavery and Titas getting the nod, they conducted interviews via Skype. 
“We’re almost there. It’s been a whirlwind today,” Martin said. “We took the long bus tour and saw Fort Hood, saw the infrastructure, saw Copperas Cove.” He added that the EDC board was meeting that evening with the candidates and their spouses for supper, then conducting face-to-face interviews on Friday. 
A special meeting of the EDC has been called for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., when the EDC board will gather to render its decision on making an offer to one of the candidates for the job.
The EDC last’s executive director, Mark Farmer, was hired in April 2017 for the position when the EDC’s employees were under the direction of the Copperas Cove city manager and were employees of the city. That relationship soured, with Farmer being fired from the job in November 2017. 
As of October 1 of last year, the EDC’s employees were moved to solely under the direction of the EDC board, with the board responsible for hiring of EDC staff.
The search for the executive director was conducted by Austin-based Johnson & Associates, which accepted applications and resumes through Feb. 15. The salary for the position was listed at $115,000 depending upon experience and qualifications. 

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