Whitewater resumes search for candidate to lead economic development

By Dave Fidlin


With 2020 moving full steam ahead, a Whitewater governing body sounded urgency in the ongoing effort to bring a new economic development professional into the city’s staff roster.

City Manager Cameron Clapper, who has been handling some of the economic development responsibilities on an interim basis, dusted off the conversation on a recruitment effort at the Community Development Authority’s most recent board of directors meeting, held Jan. 23.

After meeting with economic development officials with broader responsibilities in Walworth and Jefferson counties, Clapper presented the CDA board with a proposal — refashion the position into an economic development manager, at a lower salary, and have the professional report directly to him.

The proposal, Clapper said, would be a more realistic representation for a city of Whitewater’s size and geographic representation.

Efforts in the second half of 2019 to bring on board a new economic development director stalled. Clapper said many of the professionals who fit the bill of the last job posting “are individuals who have a significant amount of experience and cost a lot of money.”

But Clapper’s proposal for a lower level economic development manager was met with resistance by a number of CDA board members, who weighed in after he gave his pitch.

“Sorry, Cameron, but I disagree with that,” said council member James Allen, who serves on the CDA. “I think it’s a thin veil that you’re presenting … to get more control of the CDA.”

After a spirited discussion, the CDA board directed city officials to repost the position with an application window that will run about four weeks. The annual position salary will range from $60,000 to about $79,000.

While several facets of the CDA intersect with municipal activities at city hall, the governing body also has touted its desire to operate in a quasi-independent capacity, especially in terms of working with prospective developers.

With the economy still running strong, Allen led a discussion, calling for urgency in bringing on board a new professional to oversee development initiatives in the community.

“We’re stagnant, and we need to be ready and nimble,” Allen said of the city’s readiness and willingness to meet with new developers. “We’re going to be a city of tumbleweeds pretty soon. You can’t say you can’t afford economic development — you have to have economic development. This is the engine that drives the train.”

As discussions of roles and responsibilities get underway in the latest recruitment effort, CDA board member Greg Meyer said he believed officials should take a long, hard look at the specifics of the job.

“Whitewater is a unique city, and it’s going to require a unique person in a unique position,” Meyer said.

Council President Patrick Singer, who also has a role on the CDA board, said he favored a middle-of-the-road approach, with the next director having his or her hands in city hall, yet maintaining a degree of independence so there is a robust relationship with developers.

“To me, it’s a team effort,” Singer said. “(The economic development director) can’t be seen as some kind of bureaucrat.”

The city has operated without an economic development director since the departure last summer of Dave Carlson.


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