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EDC appoints two to operations board

WILLMAR — With a unanimous vote, the joint powers board of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission has appointed Art Benson and Linda Kacher to the operating board.

The vote on Wednesday filled two of three vacancies on the board and brought an end to several weeks of controversy over Kacher’s nomination by the Willmar City Council.

Board members said it was time to reach an agreement so that the EDC’s joint operating board could go forward with the business of economic development.

“I think we need to move ahead,” said Harlan Madsen, a Kandiyohi County Commissioner and one of three County Board members on the Economic Development Commission joint powers board. The other three members of the joint powers board are on the Willmar City Council.

Kacher, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said afterward that she was looking forward to serving on the operating board.

“It’s a great team to be a part of,” she said.

With the vote to approve her appointment, the board reversed its action from one month ago, when a motion to appoint Kacher deadlocked 3-3. Her nomination had the support of the Willmar City Council, but the joint powers board vote was evenly divided along city and county lines and ultimately failed.

County Commissioner Dean Shuck, who originally voted to deny the appointment, said Wednesday he had “made the mistake” of not knowing the candidate. After meeting Kacher in person, he said he would support her appointment to the board.

Commissioner Jim Butterfield said he also had visited with Kacher and was ready to vote in favor of her appointment.

“I don’t see any reason not to move forward,” he said.

Kacher brings a background in business, entrepreneurship and volunteer service. Art Benson, the other new appointee, has 30 years of experience as a Willmar business owner.

The EDC operating board still has one opening for someone from the Fifth Commissioner District, which covers the southern portion of Kandiyohi County.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen of the Fifth District said he is still searching for nominees. He talked to two potential candidates and both declined, he said Wednesday.

Members of the joint powers board want to see a more standardized process for making appointments to the joint operations board, along with clear expectations for board members.

Madsen said he had “significant concerns” about the criteria for board participation, citing a former board member who attended approximately half of the meetings.

Although he did not publicly name the board member, he was referring to Bob Enos, who joined the operations board in February 2013 and resigned this past March. According to the official minutes, Enos was present at six board meetings and absent from seven during his tenure.

Joint powers board members said they were not aware of Enos’ attendance record.

“It’s a given that we expect those people to attend the meetings,” said Ron Christianson of the Willmar City Council.

The bylaws of the joint powers board set a minimum attendance requirement at meetings but there is no similar requirement for the operations board.

Members of the joint powers board asked EDC staff Wednesday to draft some recommendations for review at their next quarterly meeting in July. They also are seeking a bylaws amendment aimed at preventing future deadlocks on the appointment of operations board candidates who have already received the support of their respective nominating bodies.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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