Photo of Kristy Johnson new IDA Executive DirectorA familiar face in Halifax County is taking on a new leadership position in economic development

Kristy Johnson has been selected as Halifax County Industrial Development Authority’s new executive director.

The IDA announced Friday morning that they had selected Johnson, who has more than 10 years of experience working for the IDA in various roles, as the organization’s new leader.

Johnson will start her new position on Sept. 15, taking over the reins from the organization’s interim executive director Mike Davidson, a retired Campbell County economic development official who stepped in to lead the IDA in November 2020 after the board’s termination of former executive director Brian Brown.

Johnson will be paid an annual salary of $115,000.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve Halifax County in this capacity,” Johnson said in an announcement on her hiring distributed by the IDA. “I am excited to continue my work with the IDA in this new role and working together to better our community.”

Following the announcement of her new role, Johnson said she plans to focus on “business retention and expansion and recruitment of new industry” as IDA’s executive director.

Johnson views economic development as a “team sport,” and said she plans to continue to grow relationships with the IDA’s partners: the Halifax County board of supervisors, the town of Halifax, the town of South Boston, the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and the county’s existing businesses.

“We need to continue to grow those relationships and build upon them and work to grow and support those endeavors,” Johnson said.

The IDA executive director search committee and IDA board selected Johnson for the role after conducting a nationwide search for a new executive director led by an outside consulting firm, Jorgenson Consulting.

Johnson in the meantime had returned to the IDA in late 2020 to assist with the organization’s operations in the absence of full-time staff members.

“Assisted by Jorgenson Consulting, we had a strong pool of candidates and Mrs. Johnson impressed both the search committee and the IDA board with her experience, understanding of Halifax County, and her approach to building our community through economic development,” IDA board chairman Robert Bates said in the announcement issued by the IDA. “We look forward to welcoming Kristy back as a member of our organization.”

Jorgenson Consulting began the search for a new executive director for the Halifax IDA in April, and Davidson told the board in a July meeting that the executive director search committee had interviewed four final candidates for the position and decided to move forward with only one of those candidates.

The search committee was comprised of Bates, IDA board treasurer Rick Harrell, Halifax County administrator Scott Simpson and Garland Ricketts, vice chairman of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.

Harrell commented in Friday’s board meeting that the IDA had hired the “No. 1 rated search firm in this country” to find the IDA’s new executive director, and the candidate who stood out above all the rest was the one already in Halifax – Johnson.

In the past, Johnson held the roles of operations manager, manager of marketing and business development, deputy director and interim executive director with the IDA

In her new role, Johnson will be responsible for directing the operations, programs and projects of the IDA.

Her first priority will be to deploy and manage a comprehensive plan for economic development, including business recruitment, retention and expansion programs.

“I hope I can work with the board to establish strategic goals, priorities and some action items using the assets that this community has,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s duties as the IDA’s leader also include managing and marketing the organization’s inventory of land and buildings.

Johnson, who lives in Halifax County with her husband and three children, has held a number of leadership roles in the county in addition to her roles with the IDA, including serving as mayor of the town of Halifax, serving as a member of the town of Halifax Planning Commission and serving as chair of the Halifax Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs.

Johnson also holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia Southwestern State University.

Johnson said she and her family came to Halifax County with a “community-minded attitude” of wanting to get involved and give back to the community, and in turn, the people of Halifax County had been “very supportive” of her and her family. It is the kind of support that Johnson said she knows she and her family would not have had in a big city.

At Friday’s board meeting, Bates and board vice chairman Jeremy Satterfield both took turns welcoming Johnson to her new position at the IDA and thanking Davidson for serving as interim director of the organization.

“Kristy, I don’t know if it’s welcome back or congratulations, whichever one you want to accept, I’d like to extend,” Satterfield said to Johnson, while also thanking Davidson for keeping the Halifax IDA “afloat” as interim director.

“I’d also like to welcome Kristy back. We’re looking forward to working with you,” Bates said to Johnson, before directing his remarks to Davidson.

“I want to thank you not only for stepping in but really for stepping up. You did this like you were still in Campbell County, like this was your job. You did not run this like an interim, and I really appreciate that. You have left us in good shape.”

Davidson replied, “I have said multiple times I could not have done what I have done without the help of Kristy, and when I depart, you will be in the most capable hands that you could ever put in that position. You will be in great shape.”

Davidson also said he believes Johnson and Blair Jeffress, who joined the IDA on July 1 as operations manager, will make a good team.

“We’re looking forward to a bright future,” Bates concluded.

From The Gazette Virginian