LISBON - An assistant prosecutor has been chosen to become the county's new economic development director.
Tad Herold was hired Wednesday by Columbiana County commissioners to take the director job, left vacant since 2002 after it was eliminated when the position was no longer able to pay for itself with money from state and federal grants being obtained.
"I think we've got a person who is very qualified - a law degree and an MBA in business," said Commissioner Jim Hoppel.
A native of Columbiana, Herold, 40, earned a bachelor's degree in city planning and geography from Youngstown State University, before earning his law degree from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. While at Ohio State, he also earned a master's degree in business administration.
In addition to a private law practice in Columbiana, Herold has worked as an assistant county prosecutor in the civil division since 2008 and as New Waterford's village solicitor, a position he resigned from following his appointment.
"I'm excited," Herold said. "I think my skill set meshes well with the job."
When commissioners announced last week their plans to restructure development operations by reinstating the director position, they said it was to help the county take advantage of the economic development opportunities expected to result from the oil and gas boom underway in the region.
"I think it's an exciting time to think about moving forward in the county. We certainly have some hurdles to overcome, but we also have more opportunities than we've ever had," Herold said.
Rather than formally seek applicants to fill the position, commissioners approached several people they believed were qualified to determine their interest in the job. Commission Chairman Mike Halleck said it was while working with Herold in preparing a job description that Herold told them he might be interested.
Halleck said they have worked closely with Herold over the years on many issues, including economic development deals, so they are very familiar with his abilities. "We think we have found the best person," he said.
Herold's salary will be $60,000, about what he is making as an assistant prosecutor, although all of the details have yet to be worked out, Halleck said. The money to pay his salary will come from the county's share of casino tax revenue until Herold can begin generating enough grant money to cover his wages.
"We look at it as an investment," Halleck said. "We're willing to fund this in the short term for the next couple of years" until the anticipated grant money starts coming in.
Commissioners decided to act now because Pam Dray, the only full-time office worker left in the development department, plans to retire Sept. 30. They wanted the director position filled immediately so the person could begin working with Dray before she leaves. The department is staffed by another retired employee who works part-time, and commissioners indicated Dray may do the same.
Meanwhile, commissioners are demolishing the former Department of Job and Family Services building and constructing a new office building in its place to house the development department and, possibly, the county port authority, which is also in the business of economic development.
"It is my hope the development department and port authority will work hand in hand in bringing in new businesses," said Commissioner Tim Weigle.
Commissioners also want to have the new director assist villages and townships that lack the manpower in applying for grants.
Herold and his wife, the former Melissa Birmingham of Leetonia, live in Youngstown but also own a home in Columbiana. He said their plan is to move back to the county at some point.