VALE – More than a year after the county’s economic development director position became vacant, officials say they are on track to finally interview applicants.
The county was slated to do the first review of applications in April but did not receive any applications for the position until May. So far, the county has received eight.
The next step will be for the Malheur County Court to go through the applications, score them individually and then schedule interviews, said Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge.
No timetable for the county court to start that process has been set
The full-time county job will pay from $59,689 to $80,925 a year.
The county completed a new job description for the position in April.
Joyce said applications have “been coming in slowly
.” since the job opening was posted four months ago.
“Finding the right person is more important, as we found out. Obviously, we’ve been through some turmoil in the last few years. Enough said,” he said.
Joyce was referring to the tenure of Greg Smith, who quit his role as economic development director in June 2022. He worked under a contract with the county through his company, Gregory Smith & Company of Heppner.
He quit over what he labeled a “toxic” environment and as the Enterprise continued its investigative reporting on his work. The newspaper reported in 2022 that Smith could produce little documentation that his firm had completed key tasks required under the contract. Marketing materials, for instance, listed officials who had long been gone from their public positions.
The county paid Smith’s company $9,000 a month but commissioners had conducted little oversight into its performance.
In 2017 the county boosted Smith’s pay by $6,000 a month when it added to his contract the duty of overseeing the Treasure Valley Reload Center
In 2022 Smith decided not to renew his contract with county and worked directly for the Malheur County Development Corp., the public company created by the county commissioners to oversee the reload project. Smith’s company was paid $9,000 a month for that work but he quit the position in February.
Smith was also to complete a number of tasks for the county before he officially left office last summer but didn’t appear to do that. A list of economic development projects Smith was pursuing was also not complete, Joyce said last year.
Ron Jacobs, county commissioner, conceded the hiring process for the position has been “a slow process.”
“That’s partly because we went out for applications and didn’t really get qualified applicants the first time around,” he said.
Jacobs said the economic development position is “critical.”
“We feel now we may have some qualified applicants,” he said.
The job advertisement outlines the director will “lead Malheur County in encouraging, promoting and coordaining the economic develop efforts and strategies of the county.”
The economic development director is tasked to work directly for the Malheur County Court “with general guidelines and with a wide degree of latitude for the exercise of initiative and judgement.”
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