Johnson is Polk’s new ETD director

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Polk County has a new economic tourism development director to guide a newly created department.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Elizabeth “Libbie” Johnson on Monday, Oct. 3.
Johnson began her employment with the county on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Libbie Johnson

Commissioners, former economic development commission chair Ambrose Mills and members of the public all had positive comments about the decision. Commissioners also thanked members of the special board created to draft a job description and develop the contract for the position.
Commissioner chair Ray Gasperson said there an incredible amount of work has been done to get the position created.
“Now we’re finally going to have this paid staff member with us,” said Gasperson. “I know she is going to do a superb job.”
Former economic development commission member Jeff Byrd said no one worked as hard as Johnson on the board.
Andy Millard said Johnson is an excellent, wonderful choice for the position.
“This county needs her and her kind of enthusiasm and passion,” Millard said. “I could not imagine a better choice.”
Mills introduced Johnson, saying she served on the Economic Development Commission (EDC) board for five years, previously served on Mecklenburg County’s Community Development Commission, owned a marketing and public relations firm, taught school and served as executive director of a home furnishings industry trade association.
Johnson, who has a degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, has a comprehensive knowledge of Polk County and its needs and hopes for the future, Mills said.
“I appreciate your support,” Johnson told commissioners. “I’m really excited about this. I’ve got what I think are some good ideas to move the county forward to give the county a good base of economic stability.”
Johnson will be paid as contract labor at a rate of $4,166 per month, or approximately $50,000 per year. The contract includes a stipulation that an additional $10,000 per year can be paid to Johnson, “for demonstrated performance above expectations.”
Polk County previously had an economic development director but eliminated the position a couple of years ago. The EDC board remained intact and ran the operations of the department.
The current board decided during this year’s budget preparations to combine the departments of economic development and travel and tourism into the economic tourism development (ETD) department. Tourism director Melinda Young’s position was decreased from full-time to part-time and the tourism portion of the ETD department is budgeted at only the approximate $64,000 expected from occupancy tax.
Johnson will oversee both economic development and tourism duties for the county.
According to a press release, Johnson will lead efforts aimed at facilitating and sustaining the county with viable businesses and good-paying jobs. Her role will include leading an aggressive program to recruit new businesses to Polk County, while developing and implementing initiatives to broaden and diversify the county’s tax base.
Johnson will also focus on creating a healthy business climate, promoting employment opportunities, strengthening existing businesses and fostering entrepreneurship.
Mills also announced the appointments of a new chair and vice-chair for the ETD board. Craig Hilton will serve as chair and Dennis Hill will serve as vice-chair.
Commissioners recognized Mills for his six years of service with the EDC board.

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