At a time front-burner issues have local officials depending increasing on the Economic Development Corporation, they were thrown a curve ball by the unexpected resignation of its director, Joey Grisham.
“It came as a surprise, I’ll tell you that,” said County Judge Darrell Cockerham, who is one of the seven members of the Lake Granbury Economic Development Corporation board.
Grisham, who has been serving his second stint as head of the EDC, emailed board members at about 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, informing them that his last day will be May 17. He said he has accepted a position heading up the Economic Development Corporation of Hutto.
The Hutto EDC released a media statement about the hiring of Grisham that same afternoon.
Hutto bills itself as “Austin’s fastest growing suburb,” and, in his email, Grisham called it “the fastest growing city in Texas.”
He wrote that, while he appreciated the board hiring him a second time to head up the Granbury EDC, the Hutto position is “a great opportunity to spread my wings.” In the 12 years Grisham has spent in economic development, he has held positions in other cities besides Granbury.
Randy Pearson, head of the Lake Granbury Area EDC board, said Thursday that efforts were under way to schedule a board meeting “to determine our pathway forward.”
The departure of the EDC director is perhaps more problematic than it might have been in the past, due to increased responsibilities that had been placed upon him in response to pressing community issues.
Grisham has spearheaded the Hood County Clean Air Coalition. The Coalition was formed after Grisham and various other officials mounted what Cockerham called “a Herculean effort” that staved off the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to classify Hood County as not being in compliance with clean air standards.
Lately, Grisham also has been involved in an effort to protect the lake level and to prevent the Brazos River Authority (BRA) from gaining additional water rights.
As part of efforts to attract businesses, Grisham was scheduled to travel to Palm Springs next week with Lee Overstreet and, later, to Las Vegas.
In his resignation email, Grisham told board members that he would leave it to them whether he should still go on those trips. He also wrote that he will “work closely” with the EDC’s Marie Ferguson to make sure she is “up to speed on all projects.”
“Joey was having to wear a lot of hats,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry, who is one of the EDC board members. “Personally, I’m glad for him but, professionally, we’re going to have some decisions to make to figure out where we go from here.”
Said Cockerham: “I was in Joey’s office at four-something the day before he turned in his resignation, and talked with him a good while. And never did this come up – never. I was caught flat-footed.”
The judge acknowledged, however, that funding uncertainty, paired with growing responsibilities and challenges, may have contributed to Grisham’s decision.
County commissioners and the Granbury City Council, Cockerham said, had agreed to continue funding the EDC, but only for a three-year period. After that, the elected officials would re-evaluate the EDC’s future.
“We’re about halfway into (that three-year period),” he said.
Grisham acknowledged the EDC’s financial uncertainty in the email he sent to board members.
“There is a lot of uncertainty with the EDC, especially when it comes to funding – I just felt I could not chance it with a family to look out for,” he wrote.
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