Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Columbia County Economic Development: Will a million dollars worth of smiles make this marriage work?

By Stew Lilker

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – This past Thursday evening, Columbia County's new Economic Development Director, Jesse Quillen, was introduced to the Lake City/Columbia County Chamber of Commerce by its always effervescent Director, Dennille Decker. Mr. Quillen harks from the Alabama – Mississippi border and began working for the County on December 5th. During its search the County ultimately overlooked its highly qualified HR Director and relied on an independent head hunter from Mississippi: The cost - $22,500 plus expenses. Mr. Quillen came with a one year guarantee.

Jesse Quillen, Columbia County's new Economic Development Czar is personable, friendly and articulate. He has a winning smile, real Southern charm, a sense of humor and a big job ahead of him.

Mr. Quillen replaced long time Industrial Development Authority Director, Jim Poole. When Mr. Poole left the County he was earning $82,039.19 plus benefits.


Long time County Manager Dale Williams is excited about the County's new Economic Development Director. He told the Observer, "Jesse is a unique individual that makes you feel good to be around ..."

Mr. Quillen was spirited away from the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, where he began working in 2008, earning $62,500. By the time he left to come to Columbia County, he was earning $82,000.

Columbia County offered Mr. Quillen $110,000 to take the job.

The County Manager's November 17, 2011 letter of introduction and Mr. Quillen's resume are here.

Mr. Quillen's Project summary shows a record of economic development accomplishment between 2009 and 2011. (Click here to enlarge image)

Dennille Decker, Lake City's Chamber Director is enthusiastic about Mr. Quillen. She told the Observer, "... I'm looking forward to see what he can bring to the area and I think he'll work hard ..."

Mr. Quillen told the Observer that while he hasn't brought any new projects to the county, "The opportunities are out there."

He concluded a brief conversation explaining that he has already floated down Columbia County's world famous Ichetucknee River.


Columbia County and North Central Florida are legendary for lost opportunities and other things.

Columbia County's new Economic Development Czar appears to have the personal requirements necessary to succeed.

Columbia County has what it has always had, its location as the central gateway to Florida on two interstates.

Time will tell if Jesse Quillen is given the latitude to succeed, or if the infamous Columbia County Good Ole Boy syndrome will ruin everything once again.

Correction: (March 13, 2012) Mr. Poole's final salary was corrected to $82,039.19)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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