Frustrations Over Non-collaborative Environment Cause of Economic Development Director’s Resignation

The Door County Economic Development Corporation’s (DCEDC) board of directors accepted the resignation of Executive Director Steve Jenkins during the organization’s monthly board meeting Jan. 17. 

His last day will be June 3. 

Jenkins came to the position in March 2020 with more than four decades of experience in economic development in several states. He was DCEDC’s fourth executive director since the organization’s founding in 1989. However, three of those have been during the last six years, since Bill Chaudoir retired in 2016. 

When asked, Jenkins said he didn’t believe there was anything inherently wrong with the structure of the position that is causing the turnover in recent years.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think it has to do with external relationships that are only power based and self centered.”

Jenkins arrived just as COVID-19 began closing down economies across the world. Yet his resignation has little to do with the challenges the virus has forced communities to reckon with, and more to do with a pandemic as old as humanity: a drive for power and prestige at the expense of collaborative efforts.

“Sometimes, individuals want to seize credit and say they collaborate when they didn’t,” he said. “You’ve got to walk the talk of collaboration, and it doesn’t mean only at your convenience.”

Jenkins said collaboration is the name of the game when trying to get major initiatives started, such as the broadband project now underway that was spearheaded by his office and being promulgated by the County of Door. He said his resignation was “not necessarily” over the broadband initiative, and he continued to talk about the definition of collaboration and how local communities need to take a hard look at what it is and why it’s necessary and how to achieve it.

“Collaboration is built on trust and stewardship,” he said, and it’s done for the community and not for individual gain. “Everyone needs to look at collaboration as being unselfish.”

Jenkins said he is resigning, not retiring, and he’ll continue to look for ways he can contribute to a county he has learned to love and will continue to call home.

“I want to find ways I can contribute,” he said. “This old guy still has a lot of kick.”

Though his tenure has been short, Jenkins said there are many projects and initiatives in the works that caused him to give five months’ notice to allow for a smooth transition.

Steve Jenkins’ last day will be June 3.

“I love this organization, and I believe in its mission and what it does, and we have the best staff I have worked with in my career,” he said. “There’s a lot of major projects I’m working on, and I’m not going to leave them in a lurch.” 

Some of those projects include the Broadband Infrastructure Engineering Assessment, which establishes the road map for providing fiber to the premises throughout Door County; the WHEDA Rural Workforce Housing Pilot, which will lead to two major innovative approaches to providing affordable housing; and the creation of the Beacon for Business program to support all businesses of all sizes throughout the county.

Ann Renard, DCEDC board chair, said she and the board were thankful for and appreciative of Jenkins’ service. 

“Beginning his journey at the onset of COVID in Door County, Steve has made significant contributions to our community and strengthened DCEDC’s mission,” she said.

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