May 11, 2013

Joint Development Authority won’t replace director

Charles Oliver

— The Dalton-Whitfield Joint Development Authority will not immediately look for a replacement for Executive Director Elyse Cochran-Davis, who said Thursday she will resign at the end of May, said Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson.

“Right now, there will not be a search. We are going to do what we can in house,” he said. “We know that even if we did look for a new director, there would be three or four months where that work would fall on the existing staff anyway. If in six weeks time or eight weeks time, we see we don’t have enough hands on deck we can go the other route.”

Cochran-Davis will join the Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG) as director of community and economic development. Atlanta-based ECG is a trade organization that provides strategic and technical services to cities that operate public power utilities, including Dalton.

Anderson said the JDA doesn’t face the same situation today that it did in 2009 when it hired Cochran-Davis, an experienced economic development official.

“Elyse has done a phenomenal job of building a foundation here, of educating our team of elected officials and internal staff,” he said. “We were new to the game then. We’ve now got some experience. We’ve shown we can handle projects. We’ve got a business park. We’ve got other land under option. We think with all those different components we don’t have to do exactly what we did in 2009.”

At the time Cochran-Davis was hired, she was the only employee of the JDA. It now has two full-time project managers as well.

“And Dalton Utilities has a dedicated person for economic development now, too,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he would take on some of Cochran-Davis’ responsibilities.

“I’ve always been connected to the economic development work, and the project managers will step up and take on more responsibilities,” he said.

He said one reason JDA board members decided not to fill the executive director’s post is they didn’t see many people out there with the skills and experience they were looking for.

“There’s not a lot of candidates that I am aware of or that Elyse is aware of that would add the value we want. We’ve got a good team,” he said.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb said he is comfortable with the JDA’s decision.

“I’ve talked to board members and understand their reasoning,” he said. “Losing Elyse’s experience and skills is difficult. But under her they have built a strong organization, and I think they can continue to take us forward.”