Former Economic Development Director Cites County Staff’s Lack Of Support As Reason For Resignation

Former Economic Development Director Cites County Staff’s Lack Of Support As Reason For Resignation

BERLIN – Citing a lack of support from county government, Bill Badger resigned from his position as economic development director for Worcester County last week.

Badger, who was hired as the county’s economic development director in November 2011, submitted his resignation Sept. 1. He said this week the decision came after the county failed to back several of his recent efforts.

“The county commissioners were supportive but county government was not as supportive,” he said. “At some point, I realized that wasn’t going to change.”

Badger, who just last year was inducted into the Maryland Economic Development Association Hall of Fame, said he had three goals when he came to Worcester County — to increase tax revenue, bring in new jobs and make the county more business friendly.

Though the commissioners have encouraged his efforts, he said county government in recent years had not been as supportive. Badger said that was made clear when staff advised the commissioners to continue researching solar options rather than with the partnership Badger had lined up.

“I’d been working three years to develop a scenario where the county could save $2 million over 20 years,” he said.

He helped Pocomoke City coordinate a similar partnership that’s now saving the municipality more than $4,000 a month.

“I was pretty proud of that,” he said.

County staff members, however, were critical of the fact that Pocomoke City officials went with the deal presented by Standard Solar and Sun Edison without going out to bid.

“It was characterized as a mistake and stupid,” Badger said. “I was very disappointed in the way that project was characterized. Anything saving taxpayer dollars is not a mistake.”

Earlier this year, the commissioners also voted not to proceed with Badger’s suggestion to tweak new development costs for properties near Walmart. Badger asked county officials to adjust the cost of EDUs (Equivalent Dwelling Units) in the Riddle Farm sanitary service area in an effort to interest more developers in the commercial property there. The commissioners opted to make no changes and left the EDU price at $23,535.

“I decided it was best to move on,” Badger said.

While Badger has left Worcester County government, he does not plan to leave the Eastern Shore. He’s already held three jobs since retiring from Anne Arundel County a decade ago and plans to pick and choose what he works on from now on.

“I’ve gotten some interesting phone calls,” he said.

Municipal officials throughout Worcester County say they’re sorry to see Badger go. Ocean City Councilmember and Tourism Commission Chair Mary Knight praised the array of initiatives he’d spearheaded in recent years, particularly his bus tour of Worcester County.

“I thought he was great for Worcester County,” she said. “Economic development — that’s what Worcester County needs. More jobs and more business.”

She said she hoped his replacement would be as dedicated to promoting business throughout the entire county.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said Badger had been instrumental in bringing the possibility of an excursion train to Worcester County.

“Bill brought economic development in Worcester County to a new level of expertise and effectiveness and has laid the groundwork for potential growth and opportunities for both the immediate future and over the longer term …” Williams said. “I hope the county commissioners realize they have an outstanding prospect already on deck to build on Bill’s short, but significant legacy in Worcester County.”
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said he was sorry to see Badger go but was not surprised by his resignation.

“I think Bill has felt frustrated for the last couple months,” he said.

He praised Badger’s efforts on behalf of Worcester County the past four years.

“Bill loved his job,” he said. “He was dedicated. He was very good at it.”

Mitrecic said he expected the county to begin advertising for a new economic development director next week after the commissioners had a chance to review the advertisement on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Merry Mears, the county’s deputy economic development director, will handle inquiries and direct existing programs. When asked if any of the county’s current projects — including its exploration into an excursion train and its consideration of a sports arena in the north end of the county — were in jeopardy with Badger’s departure, Commissioner Chip Bertino said they were not.

“Merry Mears is stepping up to the plate in the interim,” he said. “I feel confident the county’s responsibilities are in good hands.”