The city of Aurora has big shoes to fill in its economic development office, a process Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said is well under way.
Jack Burge, who had served as the city’s economic development director for "at least six years," according to the mayor, died suddenly Nov. 15.
"I’ve said from the very beginning his shoes are very difficult to fill," she said. "It killed me. He was such a great guy. I became such good friends with him, and he was always just on top of it."
She said the city thus far has had 14 applicants for the part-time position for which Burge was paid a salary of $45,000 annually last year.
"He had a strong background in retail and sales with a significant number of companies," said Womer Benjamin of Burge. "He was very familiar with marketing and fit right in with the marketing of our city."
Since Burge’s passing, she said Portage Development Board President Brad Ehrhart, an Aurora resident, has been helping the city with economic development, which has freed Womer Benjamin to weigh her decision carefully without a particular timeline.
"I’ve been taking this very slowly and deliberately," she said. "It has been helpful to me that Brad Ehrhart of the Portage Development board has been keeping me in the loop."
Whoever she hires, Womer Benjamin said she expect the new economic development director to have some understanding of economic development.
"I’m looking for people who understand what economic development is; a lot of folks don’t," she said. "I am also hoping to find someone who is a bit familiar with the general landscape in Aurora."
However, there will be a learning curve for some of the specific tools peculiar to the position of city economic development director.
"The tools can be learned," she said. "I think anyone coming into this position is going to have something of a learning curve, but I expect that."
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, firstname.lastname@example.org or @bobgaetjens_rpc.