The Walton County Economic Development Alliance’s search for a new executive director has ended.
Steven Jaeger, the executive director of TransPORT, the port authority in Peoria, Ill., has accepted the position that has been open since Scarlett Phaneuf resigned Dec. 28 to accept a position with the Bay County Economic Development Alliance. Jaeger is expected to start on May 20.
Jaeger and his family have vacationed in Walton County for more than 20 years.
“I’m excited. My wife and I have owned property in Walton County for about 10 years, and even though we are currently living in the Midwest, our roots are in the South,” Jaeger said. “We were in the New Orleans area for about 17 years and throughout that whole period we’ve been coming to the Emerald Coast regularly.
“It’s a place we always wanted to end up and this, hopefully, will be an opportunity to do that.”
The Walton County EDA has a number of projects in development now that Jaeger said he will have to focus on, such as updating the organization’s strategic plan and website. He will also take over a position on the board of directors of the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce.
One of his initial goals for the position is to get out and meet people in the community.
“What I need to do is get to know the elected officials and the folks who make things happen in Walton County and get an idea of what they feel our priorities should be,” Jaeger said.
Walton County Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen, who is chairman of the EDA’s board of directors, said Jaeger was clearly the board’s first choice and he was happy he accepted the position.
“I was really impressed with the work he had put into looking at the area,” Pridgen said. “If anyone didn’t know him, they would think he was born and raised in Walton County because he knew the history, he knew the industrial parks, the beaches. He had really studied and done some research on Walton County.
“And he had a lot of enthusiasm about wanting to move forward on these industrial parks we have and trying to move the county forward and seeking businesses to come into our county,” he added. “He was really impressive to me and the whole board.”
Jaeger will be paid $65,000 a year, which is the top of the pay range for the job.