PDT Staff Writer
The Scioto County Commissioners have fired longtime economic development consultant Fritz Leighty of Leighty and Snider Inc., citing a change of direction.
The commissioners have hired Michele Throckmorton, current development director with the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, to assume a similar role.
According to Fritz, he has been consulting with the county for more than 35 years.
When asked if he had been let go by Scioto County Leighty said, “Yes, the closest it got to a reason why, is that they (commissioners) wanted change and it would save them money. At which time I pointed out I did not cost them any money, since all of our stuff is paid out of grant money.”
According to the Scioto County Auditor’s Office, Leighty and Snider Inc. was paid $67,364, in 2012.
Leighty said this decision came out of the blue and he was not expecting it.
“I was told in a meeting with (Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners) Mike Crabtree and (Scioto County Interim Economic Development Director) Todd Book. This meeting happened a week ago yesterday,” Fritz said. “We have some other clients, Scioto County is a major client. It is going to hurt the bottom line very, very much.”
According to Book, Throckmorton is being brought on as a grant writer and is part of a plan to build a unified economic development office for the county.
“I think of this as more of a transition. From looking around at other counties and other places, several counties have an in-house person that does grant applications for the county, townships and other entities inside the county. The commissioners saw that as a model,” Book said. “They have asked her to come on and lead the grant application process for the county.”
He said this role had been previously filled by contract with Fritz.
“The thought is we will get more bang for their buck when it comes to the grant applications that are going to be coming out of the county,” Book said.
When asked if Throckmorton was eventually going to be Book’s replacement as county economic development director Book said, “Her job is to be the grant person for the county and hopefully provide a real good service for the county. Hopefully she can help us with getting grants. It’s been done well in the past, we just want to try to do it better.”
Book acknowledged Throckmorton may be his replacement in the future.
“If she does a good job, she is going to be a part of any economic development team or organization. One of the big parts of an economic development situation is a grant writer and finding funding for necessary projects,” Book said.
A few months ago, Book announced that efforts are under way to form a unified economic development agency that would serve the needs of the county and the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA).
He acknowledged the hiring of Throckmorton was part of this plan. When asked when other parts of the plan would be implemented he said, “We’re going as fast as we can go. My goal is that by the end of this year, the structure will be in place for an economic development office and be prepared to serve the needs of this county.”
When asked if he planned to be the leader of this organization, Book said, “I don’t have any control of that.”
Crabtree, acknowledged the change in direction for the county.
“I do not know if you would call it firing him or letting him go, but we’re going to do something a little different than what we’ve been doing. We’ve got an opportunity to get someone who is very qualified to do what he’s doing full-time as opposed to what we have with Fritz (part-time). We’re just trying to do whatever we can do get the best bang for our buck.”
Crabtree said Fritz will stay with the county temporarily to bring Throckmorton up to speed on current projects.
He said Throckmorton will start working for the county on May 6.
“We’re just trying to see how we can spend money more wisely and get more for our money,” Crabtree said. “Hopefully this is not to create some kind of a conflict between us a Fritz because that’s not what it was intended to do. I think this will be a good move and I think people will see the wisdom of it when it’s all said and done.”
John Hemmings, Executive Director of OVRDC, said Throckmorton has been with the organization for 19 years.
“This is going to be a big loss for us. It’s hard to replace 19 years of experience. It’s our loss, their gain,” Hemmings said.
He said OVRDC will be soon be advertising for the position of Development Director.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.