ST. MARY’S – After weeks of combing through the resumes of qualified candidates from across Nova Scotia, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s found its first full-time economic development officer (EDO) around the corner and just down the hall.
Marissa Jordan, the district’s clerk and special projects coordinator, assumes her new responsibilities leading a comprehensive redesign of St. Mary’s economic development plans and priorities, effective almost immediately.
“I hope to move completely into the position around July 1,” she says, adding she expects to spend time training her replacement. “But I am very excited to make economic development in St. Mary’s my main focus.”
So, indeed, is her boss, Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald, who pulls no punches when he explains why Jordan got the nod: She was simply the best person for the job.
“We interviewed six candidates, and it was a pretty broad field,” he says. “I think we are very fortunate.”
Certainly, Jordan has her work cut out for her. The municipality is in the midst of a complete overhaul of its municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw, having contracted with urban design studio Fathom of Halifax to do much of the heavy lifting over the past several months. While final drafts of the documents are not yet ready, Jordan says, “We've been working on it for the past year, and we’re hoping to have that wrapped up pretty soon.”
According to the original notice for the position, the EDO “will prepare and keep current an Economic Development Plan for the municipality, identifying and recommending areas and sectors to focus on for potential development, promote new business opportunities and provide support to existing businesses to help with retention and expansion and long-term economic sustainability, [and] assist in the management of the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law.”
Furthermore, the ad stipulated the job “requires a degree in business, marketing, economic development or a related field of study, and a minimum of five years’ experience in rural economic development. The successful candidate will have excellent communication, interpersonal and organizational skills, be familiar with municipal government operations and be able to demonstrate knowledge on the role of local government in promoting business development.”
All of which seems to be right in Jordan’s wheelhouse. Originally from P.E.I., she’s been the municipality’s clerk and special projects coordinator – with responsibilities over key civic events and initiatives, such as the recent municipal election – for the past two years. Prior to that, she worked with her husband in the family landscaping company, running administration and keeping the books.
“I think [the]EDO really needs to be a liaison between the municipality and a lot of the small businesses in our area,” she says. “We have a great pool of them, and I believe they don’t get enough support. I know the struggles that small businesses have in such a rural economy. So, I’m hoping to build up the position and really reach out to them and do a lot of networking, see what they need. I’m hoping to figure out what we can do to help them, as well as drive some more economic change here.”
Even though the EDO position is a first for the municipality, Jordan isn’t worried.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting the next few months,” she says. “Thankfully, we do have our Director of Finance Marian Fraser, and she’s been here for a long time. She’s a lot of the glue that holds us together. Everybody will just have to work together and everything’s going to be new, but that’s okay. Sometimes, change is good.”
Jordan’s appointment is the first of several upcoming staff changes in St. Mary’s.
MacDonald notes the competition for his position – from which he officially retires at the end of June – is heating up fast.
“We’ve received over 200 applications and resumes from all across Canada, and internationally,” he says.
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal