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Columbia County Is Searching For an Economic Development Director

Dumbing It Down – Post Secondary Education – What’s That?

Hand holding a diploma in the air
Photo: Feyza Tuğba via Pexels | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The infamous Columbia County 5 (County Commission or "The 5") demonstrated its lack of regard for higher education during its last meeting when it unanimously removed the requirement of a bachelor’s degree of any kind for the position of County Economic Development Director.


The Economic Development Director job description was initially written in 2011-12.

The job description required a “bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with major course work in public or business administration, planning, economics, or closely related field and eight (8) years of increasingly responsible professional experience in economic development and related activities; or any combination of experience, education, and training that would provide the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.”

This level of training, experience, and education for the top-level job of governmental Economic Development Director remains pretty much standard throughout the governmental economic development director world through today.

In July of 2022, Governor DeSantis signed legislation that allowed the education component in a job description to be substituted on a year-for-year basis with verifiable and comparable experience. To make the substitution, a governmental agency needed to advertise that it was doing so.

Brandon Stubbs
Brandon Stubbs lowered the standard with the obvious approval of the County's top management. (file)

On January 23, 2022, former County Planner Brandon Stubbs, who was now working in County HR without any previous HR experience or training, rewrote the economic development director job description eliminating all education requirements and substituting four years of progressively responsible professional experience for the 2011-2012 eight year requirement. The job description mentioned that a bachelor's degree would be “preferred."

The County's newly revised job description did not mention the requirement for any job certifications or certificates.

Mr. Stubbs claimed that "the educational requirement for a bachelor's degree and eight years of experience in economic development would severely limit the applicant pool."

Mr. Stubbs also claimed that the new job description "allows a combination of experience, education, and training in accordance with state regulations." This claim is not valid.

In 2011, Columbia County advertised for its first non-appointed economic development director. The County received ten applications. All applicants had college educations, with some having MBAs and economic development certifications.

Back in those days, folks applying for positions in Columbia County didn't know the reputation of Columbia County and the extent of its good ole' boy cronyism and job interference by its elected officials.

As time went on, the County's reputation spread. After economic development director Jesse Quillen resigned in 2013, the County searched for its next economic development director. There were six applicants, of which four were considered. All those were college graduates, although the degrees of some had nothing to do with finance, government, planning, or economic development.

In 2022, the forced resignation/retirement of Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter had Columbia County again in the market for an economic development director.

County Manager David Kraus
County Manager David Kraus (file)

According to County Manager David Kraus, the County advertised for an economic development director in 2022 and had only three applicants, of which one was qualified.

The County 5 did not consider the qualified candidate, decided to leave the position vacant, and rewrote the job description to accommodate a current county employee.

What’s Going On In Florida?

Gov. Ron DeSantis graduated with degrees from both Yale and Harvard.

Former Gov. Rick Scott graduated from the University of Missouri and the Harvard of the South, SMU.

Enterprise Florida is looking for a director of business development. Besides a laundry list of certifiable requirements, the position requires a minimum of a “Bachelor’s degree in economics, business administration or related course of study.” The preferred qualification is a “Master’s degree.”

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is seeking a Chief of Government Affairs and Economic Development.

“A Bachelor’s degree in Transportation, Urban Planning, Business Administration, or closely related field is required, with a minimum of seven years comprehensive experience working on economic development and strategic planning, developing business plans, planning studies, market research reports, and other forms of both quantitative and qualitative analysis. An advanced degree is preferred with prior senior management experience."

Cape Coral is looking for an economic development director.

A Bachelor's degree is "required," and a Master's degree in Planning, Public Administration, Business Administration, or a related field is preferred, as is membership in the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

The County 5 Weighs In: February 2, 2023

Commissioner Rocky Ford
County Chair Rocky Ford (file)

Your reporter, also a resident and property owner in Columbia County, told The 5 Florida's Governors went to college and suggested that if they have somebody on the inside that doesn't meet the requirements, they should just hire the person and not dumb down the job requirements in the eyes of the world.

County Attorney Joel Foreman said he was confused about the language.

County Chairman Ford explained that a bachelor’s degree was preferred, but not required.

Commissioner Tim Murphy asked, "What's your take, David [County Manager David Kraus], because that ain't the conversation me and you had? Talkin' to you, I'm pretty sure you're just takin' the Bachelor's degree requirement out."

Commissioner Tim Murphy
Commissioner Tim Murphy (file)

County Manager Kraus explained, “People with Bachelor’s degrees can apply – yes. But this would say if somebody came in but did not have a Bachelor’s degree, but had extensive economic development experience, they could be considered.”

Mr. Kraus failed to mention that the economic development director job description contained no minimum education requirement.

Chairman Ford opined, “Four years of on-the-job training is usually a lot more valuable than four years of college.”

Commissioner Hollingsworth agreed, “10 times more.”

Commissioner Ronald Williams said, “I wholeheartedly agree that the four years or more of experience goes a long way… I think a person with experience should have a chance to have a position.”

The County 5 approved the revised Economic Development Director job description, sans educational and certification requirements 5-0.


This morning, on the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) job pages, not surprisingly, there was no mention of Columbia County’s search for an economic development director.

The infamous Columbia County 5: the legend continues.

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