Citing health and family concerns Barry Sellers announced his resignation as executive director of the Gulf County Economic Development Alliance, Inc.
Sellers’ resignation is effective Friday, Nov. 29. He returned to his native Arkansas for continued treatment as he fights a recurrence of cancer.
The resignation, he said in a letter to the EDA board, was in no way a reflection of the organization and its non-profit partners.
“I hate to see his health issues came back up because he had done a great job for the EDA,” said EDA board president Guerry Magidson. “He had gotten us back up to the point where things were moving forward.
“He did a super job and he a fine man who really cares about this county.”
Sellers emphasized that the EDA board was comprised of five good business volunteers, had a contract with the Board of County Commissioners that runs through the end of 2014 and urged local officials to “stay the course.”
“Keep the organization running and stay the course on the port,” Sellers wrote.
The resignation closes what could fairly be called a tumultuous year for Sellers.
At one point it was unclear where and how he fit in the organizational chart for economic development after the BOCC took back operating authority of the former Economic Development Council.
Over the course of several months, the BOCC negotiated a contract with a new organization, the EDA, with a volunteer board comprised of five local businesspeople.
The final BOCC vote was 3-2 and Commissioner Joanna Bryan faulted the final agreement between the BOCC and EDA for lacking specific goals and parameters for determining the success of the organization, an agreement she said that set the EDA up “to fail.”
The EDA was provided 18 months of promised public funding from the BOCC and municipalities and was in the process of growing its private partnerships.
Sellers was out on unpaid leave for much of the summer addressing health issues and as recently as the first BOCC meeting of this month Commissioner Ward McDaniel declared his tenure a failure.
If 2013 was a roller coaster, it has been a ride from the outset for Sellers.
He was hired to be director of a consolidated Chamber of Commerce/Economic Development Council after the BOCC joined the two, but Sellers spent several weeks learning the computer passwords and contacts and was limited on staff.
But he grew the Chamber membership, including making inroads in Wewahitchka noted by its City Council, and reached out to assist existing and relocating small businesses.
“We have had numerous new small businesses that have opened here as we increased recruitment efforts,” Sellers wrote in his letter of resignation to the EDA board. “We have worked with many existing companies with their plans of expansions.
“I am proud of the work we have accomplished.”
The consolidated model was dissolved as the BOCC took back operational control, a new Chamber board ceded any economic development to the new EDA and a new Chamber director was hired.
Sellers said he didn’t really get to the business of economic development, which included significant work with the Port St. Joe Port Authority, until the EDA was created, having emphasized Chamber work in his first 18 months.
During his tenure, however, Eastern Shipbuilding announced it would ultimately expand to Gulf County – the company continues to make lease and utility payments – and the St. Joe Company announced two separate letters of intent with energy companies for shipping through the port.
“We have had three larger announcements that are waiting on changes and improvements to come to complete fruition,” Sellers wrote in his resignation letter. “I will continue to be positive about Gulf County overall… There are too many resources, assets and beauty here for it not to work in the long run.”
Magidson said the EDA is exploring its options for moving forward. He said there were several and said he would know more following the holiday.