Local leaders think they have found the next man to move Thomson and McDuffie County's business, tourism and economic development forward. The next head of Forward McDuffie will be one of the three finalists named last week.
From the eight candidates to succeed Don Powers - who became Thomson's city administrator - the search committee narrowed the field to a familiar face, a man from Augusta and one from Birmingham, Ala.
Dean Barber runs his own economic development consulting firm, Barber and Associates. He also formerly served as the director of economic development for Jefferson County, Ala., which he feels has prepared him to do similar work in McDuffie County.
"I want to know more about the job," said Mr. Barber, who got into economic development by covering it as a newspaper reporter. "Because what's most important to both parties, both them and me, is that it's a good fit. So I'm interested in learning more about it."
Mr. Barber said he will investigate McDuffie County should the search committee request an interview. He also said his job as a journalist gave him deep insight into the business world's inner workings.
"I was a business editor, so I have an understanding and a great interest in business, in the private sector," he said. "The private sector is what makes this country work, not government."
Another of the finalists spent years in the news media as a television reporter and anchor at WJBF and WRDW in Augusta. Christopher Naylor said that experience prepared him for researching companies that could potentially locate in the area.
"I have learned that you do not tell anybody something that you don't have the actual facts for," said Mr. Naylor, who later served as Augusta's Downtown Development Authority director. Mr. Naylor also added that he was surprised to learn he was a finalist since he received a letter stating he wasn't.
In addition to those strengths, Mr. Naylor said his membership on, and contacts with, the Georgia Downtown Association and the Georgia Economic Development Association would come in very handy for Thomson and McDuffie County, a place he said has great potential.
"Thomson-McDuffie County is a superb area and prime to bring in industry," Mr. Naylor said, adding that smaller industry could be more prone to locate here. "...Getting large industry is a little more difficult, which I look at as a challenge. I believe Thomson-McDuffie have all of the necessities that are needed by industry to be able to locate there."
The final candidate for the position knows about industry in McDuffie County first hand because he has lived in Thomson for the last 15 years. Mike Carrington is a Thomson city councilman and a loan officer at Queensborough National Bank and Trust on Hill Street.
"I'm excited to make the top three," Mr. Carrington said. "...When it came open this time, I was encouraged to put my name in the hat by some folks. And with me being on the chamber board for 12 years and president of the chamber for a while and being on the recreation board, I do a lot of stuff with them."
Mr. Carrington said he will have to learn the ropes of economic development, but with his experience in local government, he has seen one side of attracting industry. He also said his involvement in state politics will provide numerous useful contacts that would help draw the things he thinks are key.
"I still think it's important to get somebody like an Applebee's in here," he said. "And the reason I think that is because a lot of these industries come in here and they look at 'Alright, if I move my wife here, what kind of restaurants do they have?' and that kind of thing."
According to Georgia law, the earliest the Forward McDuffie search committee could chose a director would be April 18, which is 14 days after the finalists were announced.