After an 18-month search, the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority's search for a new president is over.
Mel Baxter, who was serving as the authority's interim executive director, was named as its new president Monday. The board unanimously voted Baxter to the post after more than a year and nearly $35,000 invested in the search.
For Baxter, who had no administrative role in the search, it was the end of a long and comprehensive process.
"It is very humbling to be able to do this. I am a lifelong resident and to think that I could raise a family and have a career here ... and now this position —it's very fulfilling," he said.
The search for a new director, now titled president after a board vote, began with the departure of previous executive director Chuck Scragg. He left the post in January 2015, citing personal matters.
Since that time, Baxter served as his replacement. The authority board then hired the Chason Group to find a permanent replacement.
According to development authority records, the total cost of the search was $24,500 with travel expenses for search team members and candidates adding on another $10,250. All told, the cost to the authority was $34,750.
Baxter was the last finalist standing from an original pool of 35, selected by the Chason Group. The six finalists were made aware that, legally, their names must be released to the public. Five subsequently withdrew their names from the selection process, most likely to avoid current or other potential employers discovering their interest in another position. Those in the business report it is a common occurrence.
For outgoing board chairman Bruce Dixon, the investment of time and money only solidifies the fact that they found the right person for the job.
"We think the company did a good job of finding candidates for us to interview. We went through a very extensive search process, where we interviewed five people including Mel, then four candidates were interviewed twice. We had some very good applicants," he said.
"When it came down to the final recommendation by the board after considering all of the skills from those four candidates in the second round, out of the group, we felt Mel gave us the best opportunity for success. And it was an expensive process, and this board put in a lot of work and time into it."
The thorough search, Dixon says, allows them to feel confident in their choice moving forward.
"If we had just gone ahead and changed him from interim to permanent ... to president, we could have second-guessed ourselves or others could have. Now everyone knows that we found the best candidate," he said.
Baxter has extensive experience with the authority. He served two, three-year terms as a member of the board. Prior to retiring from his post as president and CEO of United Community Bank in Brunswick, he worked in the banking industry for 26 years. Baxter served as interim director of the development authority for 16 months.
And since doing the job for more than a year, Baxter feels prepared for the workload and is willing to accept it. He says that's because he wants to continue to work to improve the area.
"I just feel like there's a lot of unfinished business. I have a son and two daughters here. I just had my third grandchild. My family loves this area and they want their children to grow up here," he said.
"I want to do everything I can to make it so they don't have to leave this area to find a way to make a living. We live in a paradise and we've got to keep moving forward. I think that we need good, controlled growth in certain areas, not all areas. But there are certainly areas where we can plug in some growth. There's just a lot of work to do."
To get it all done, Baxter will be relying on partnerships, the bonds between area organizations, all striving for positive momentum.
"We have a very professional staff and a great team here. We also have wonderful partners like the chamber and the CVB those folks just as interested in moving forward as we are," he said.
In other board business, the authority followed a vote by the Glynn County Airport Commission and the Glynn County Commission to award Summers Construction the bid for work on the north apron project. The firm submitted the lowest bid — $5,516,725. It also heard presentations from Greg Aloia, president of the College of Coastal Georgia and other educational leaders.
The authority also voted in new officers. Cedric King will serve as board chair, Jack Kilgore will be vice-chair and Missy Neu will serve as secretary-treasurer.