Jessica Milsap, a Great Bend city council member representing Ward 1, has been hired as the director of the newly formed Great Bend Economic Development Inc., it was announced at the council’s Monday night meeting. She officially started this week, and following the meeting, she resigned her seat on the council.
“I am really excited to serve the community in this capacity,” Milsap said, adding she was also quite nervous about the new venture.
But, she felt her new position would be a direct conflict of interest. She thanked those who voted for her and noted she will continue to serve the City of Great Bend, just in a different capacity.
The announcement came in a report from GBED board member Mark Calcara, who offered an update on the group’s activities. He admitted they had hoped to have a director on board sooner.
But, by waiting, he said they got the best candidate. There were eight applicants, most of whom were from out of state.
“Hiring somebody was a bit of challenge,” Calcara said. They had advertisements out for a few months.
In the end, they looked for someone with talent, passion, energy and who was familiar with the community. “We knew somebody who filled that skill set,” he said.
In the meantime, the board continues to meet weekly and members discuss items throughout the week to move things along. They also have a morning-long all-board retreat planned for this Thursday.
“We have a good board with a lot of diverse thoughts, and with a common goal to make Great Bend great,” Calcara said. But, “this will take a community effort.”
The board has reviewed three requests for proposals from businesses looking to expand; one is from a national chain. “We’re competing with a lot of people,” he said, but things are looking promising.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of those meetings,” Mayor Cody Schmidt said. “I really like the way that’s going. Hopefully this takes us in the right direction.”
The 501 c (6) non-profit entity replaces the long-standing relationship the city had with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce for economic development services.
The GBED is governed by a volunteer five-member board of directors. Two positions are selected by the council with priority given to sitting council members, two are selected by the chamber, and those first four board members select the remaining at-large member.
Jolene Biggs joins Councilman Barry Bowers as the city representatives. They are joined by chamber reps Calcara and Mark Chalfant, and at-large member Dennis Neeland. The board was tasked with hiring the director.