Lexington names new economic director

Lexington town leaders are reviving the role of town economic director and hiring Lexington County councilman Johnny Jeffcoat of Irmo for the post.

Bringing back a job abolished four years ago is vital in a struggling economy and Jeffcoat's experience is what's needed, officials said Monday.

"We're kind of buying his many years of relationship-building," Mayor Randy Halfacre said. "We're capitalizing on it."

Some former Town Council members said the move smacks of a political payoff.

"It's a position being created for a friend, a favor," said Constance Flemming, who supported the job's abolition in 2005 and ran against Halfacre in 2008.

What was then a $60,000 job was scrapped after town leaders said it duplicated efforts of county officials and local business groups.

Why bring it back?

The revival should not be seen as dissatisfaction with those groups, but as an effort to improve in tough times, Halfacre said Monday.

Halfacre is executive director of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce in addition to holding the top elected town post.

Jeffcoat, 63, was looking for a job in economic development after selling his insurance agency nine months ago. He would be paid $68,000 in this role. Between the elected and appointed posts, Jeffcoat will make more than $80,000.

Joining Lexington Town Hall "was the right fit," he said.

Jeffcoat focused on bringing in jobs during his 14 years as an elected county leader. His contacts are invaluable, town leaders said.

"He knows what he's doing," town councilman Danny Frazier said. "He knows everybody in business."

The proposal before Town Council says Jeffcoat will concentrate initially on bringing in restaurants, retailers and corporate offices, especially to Lexington's struggling downtown.

"In today's conditions, it may be a big challenge, but it's one I think can be met," Jeffcoat said.

He plans to remain a councilman while working for the town. When necessary, he said he will abstain in county dealings with the town, as required by conflict-of-interest standards, but he predicted such circumstances will occur seldom.

Plans call for Jeffcoat to start work at Town Hall on Monday after final details of the package are worked out by town administrator Jim Duckett and town council members.

The job would not include health insurance or payment for business travel. Holding the job a few years will increase the pension Jeffcoat will receive as a public official.

It's the second time in six years that town leaders created a job for a County Council member.

The late Butch Spires was a town consultant for two years.