During nine years as mayor of Augusta, Deke Copenhaver helped city economic development officials court companies such as ADP, Rural Sourcing Inc. and Unisys.
On Monday, those officials named Copenhaver the city’s point man for economic development – at least until the end of the year.
The former public official and radio personality was named interim executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, overseeing day-to-day operations until a full-time replacement is found for Walter Sprouse, whose retirement was announced in September.
Sprouse’s last day was initially set for Dec. 31, but the authority said Monday that the board and the 13-year employee mutually “agreed to move up the retirement date to accommodate Sprouse’s plans to pursue a new employment opportunity.”
Copenhaver said he does not intend to apply for the permanent position, whose application deadline expires Tuesday. Copenhaver is the principal of a public affairs consultancy, Copenhaver Consulting LLC, and was host of a local radio talk show until earlier this month.
“(Economic development) is part of what I do, so the timing couldn’t have been better on this,” Copenhaver said in an interview Monday. “Once again I’m excited to be back in the middle of economic development.”
The authority, which also operates as the Augusta Economic Development Authority, is charged with helping existing businesses expand and recruiting new industry to Richmond County.
The authority has hired The Chason Group, a Cartersville, Ga.-based executive search firm to fill the executive director position as well as the authority’s two project management vacancies and a third south Augusta-focused economic development position being created in conjunction with the Augusta Commission.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, the only authority staff position not in flux was Operations Manager Laurie Davis.
“With the volume of activity, we need more than one person in the office,” Copenhaver said, adding his first day on the job already had “a lot of meetings and a lot of phone calls.”
Authority Chairman Henry Ingram said in a statement that the authority was “extremely grateful for the work Walter has done for us over the years” and that it was looking “forward to exciting new opportunities for economic development in Augusta under new leadership.”
The authority also appears poised to rename the director position as “president.” Ingram and Pat Schaffer, the authority’s personnel committee chairwoman, each used the term when referring to the position in their statements.
“The Chason Group search firm continues to search for qualified candidates for the office of President, as well as other authority positions previously announced,” Schaffer said.
The authority this year has approved more than $965 million in industrial revenue bond financing for new and existing industry. During the previous two years it claims to have facilitated more than $300 million in investment and 2,500 new jobs during 2015 and 2016.
While serving as mayor, Copenhaver helped create an economic development committee comprised of representatives from the city’s various economic agencies and entities. He said he is willing to assist his replacement as long as necessary during the transition period.
“Hopefully, I’ve played a good role in economic development in nine years in office as being part of the team – not the point of the spear,” he said. “Being a part of that team was something I was very passionate about, and I’m just excited to be a part of it again.”
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or email@example.com.