The Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance unexpectedly lost its executive director Don McClellan a year ago and has been searching for a replacement since.

The board has been close to having a new director through its own searches twice in the past year but for its third time employed the services of The Next Move Group to help find the next director.

“We are close to finally having someone hired now,” new LMAEDA board chair T.C. Coley said. “I am more comfortable saying that now than at any time in the past. Every time we had a pool of candidates with racial diversity, gender diversity that we had a good mix of people with good qualifications, especially considering economic developers tend to not be a very diverse group to start with.”

Coley said the board paused for a bit after McClellan’s death to identify what the Lake Martin area needs from a new economic developer.

“The committee took some time to define what they wanted in an economic development candidate,” Coley said. “One thing was to identify a candidate to help move the area forward. There are good candidates available locally but we wanted to identify candidates with expertise to move us forward and not lose anything.”

LMAEDA conducted two searches for McClellan’s replacement on its own before employing Next Move Group.

“We have had some setbacks,” Coley said. “We have had two rounds of interviews and now on our third.”

Coley said The Next Move has supplied the LMAEDA board with quality candidates.

“As of now we have a pool of four finalists that I think anyone will be happy to have,” Coley said. “We expect to have interviews Thursday and Friday and expect after those interviews that we will have a person approved by the board by the end of the month.”

Coley said The Next Move Group has conducted more than 90 executive searches for economic development, many in Alabama and pulled together a much longer list of candidates to replace McClellan than the board did.

“Despite our best efforts, there are some things they did we didn’t do in our process,” Coley said. “They have a much larger database. They do email followups and 100 direct phone calls to chum the water to stir up interest to end up with a really good pool of candidates — experienced candidates. They are candidates who could have a positive impact on the area.”

Coley said longtime LMAEDA staff members helped make the lengthy transition to a new director possible.

“One thing we are fortunate for is having a veteran economic developer on our staff in Denise Walls, who really stepped in and is doing the work of two and half people,” Coley said. “The commission approved to allow (Tallapoosa County Tourism director and former LMAEDA staff member) Sandra Fuller to step in from time to time to help get caught up.”

Coley said he understands some are frustrated with how long it has taken to find McClellan’s replacement but believes the area will be better in the end.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience,” Coley said. “There have been a lot of hours and a lot of interviews. We hope the person we decide on will be really good for helping move the community forward in a positive way.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.