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SEUALG switches executive directors in quick turnaround

Sun Advocate associate editor

Mike McCandless had no time to add any personal touches to his office at the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments.

On Thursday, the day he was slated to be introduced as the new executive director of the organization, he became the former director. The board accepted his request to withdraw his name from consideration so he could return to his former job as Emery County's economic development director.

The board then selected Debbie Hatt, an employee with years of experience at the association, to be be executive director.

"There are issues in Emery County that have just arisen this week," McCandless explained to members of the staff and public after the board reconvened from a brief executive session. This issues involved what he called "critical" opportunities for economic development in his home county.

He said the Emery County Commission had agreed to allow him to come back. In fact, it was county commissioner Jeff Horrocks who made the motion to suspend the order of the agenda and convene the executive session immediately after the open meeting had been called to order.

McCandless stayed for the rest of the meeting, then left with others when the board called another executive session at the end.

In an interview after the meeting, he reiterated that his departure was simply "a timing issue." He said, "I'm not saying someone else could not do the [economic development] job, but it would take time to build up the momentum."

The Blue Castle Holdings nuclear plant and another major industrial development are in the works, he explained.

In an interview Monday, Price Mayor Joe Piccolo, who chairs the association, said, "I would have been pleased with someone of his caliber to come to work with us. I don't think it was an easy decision for him, but I respect his choice."

Piccolo said he is looking forward to working with Debbie Hatt.

Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter, also a board member, agreed with Piccolo. "We all thought Mike brought a lot to the table because of the variety of experience and labors he has had. Debbie also has a lot of experience at the association," he commented.

The Association of Local Governments is a state-sanctioned cooperative agreement among Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties and the municipalities within them.

It provides community planning assistance and also acts as a conduit for funding and local administration of such things as Home Energy Assistance, weatherization, aging, food banks and aging programs across the four-county region.

Bill Howell, the former executive director, retired after many years of service.

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