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EDA begins search for new executive director

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) met on Tuesday, March 9 via Zoom and covered a variety of topics. One matter was replacing folks on the committees that had been filled by Heidi Doo-Kirk when she was a commissioner.

New county commissioner and EDA board member Ann Sullivan agreed to serve on the EDA finance committee. She will serve on that committee with Howard Hedstrom and Scott Harrison. The other new EDA member, Virginia Palmer, agreed to serve on the EDA personnel committee. She will serve on that committee with Howard Hedstrom and Carol Mork.

One of the first matters for the personnel committee is working on an “exit strategy” for EDA Executive Director Mary Somnis. Somnis announced that she is planning for retirement over a year ago and asked the board to begin succession planning. In the latest EDA packet was a sample job description and announcement of a job opening for review. The EDA board will consider approval of the information at their next meeting, on Tuesday, April 6. Once approved, an advertisement will go out and interested parties will be asked to submit resumes.

Somnis said it is hoped that orientation for the successful applicant would begin at the beginning of June. Somnis once again said she will stay on until the board is comfortable with the transition. And, she agreed to stay on in some capacity, as needed to finish some current EDA projects.

There was discussion of the various “old and ongoing business” matters, such as the work toward redevelopment of the buildings destroyed by fire in April 2020; the Taconite Area Business Relief Loans; exploration of a Housing and Redevelopment Authority; and more.

The Cedar Grove Business Park update included information on the need for assistance for lot buyers on stormwater management plans. Director Somnis said the EDA has been meeting with Cook County Soil & Water and is seeking a grant for technical assistance for business park buyers.

There was also some conversation about the future of the animal shelter in Grand Marais. The shelter, the dog pound, has to be moved because of the planned improvements to the boat launch at the Grand Marais Recreation Park and Marina. About a year ago, there was a very tentative proposal to construct the animal shelter on a lot at the Cedar Grove Business Park. However, according to Director Mary Somnis, this is not a “done deal.” There are quite a few details that would need to be worked out for that to happen. She said the EDA, the city, and the county will have more discussion on this idea. Listen to a related interview with Sheriff Pat Eliasen here.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with EDA Director Mary Somnis about all of this and more. Here’s their conversation.