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Broadwell's resignation: What they're saying

Our story in today's N&O got cut for space, so please read the longer version coming in Sunday's Chapel Hill News. Here is more of what people are saying in response to the resignation of Orange County economic development director Bradly (that is how he spells it) Broadwell:

County Manager Frank Clifton: "Brad raised some good issues when he was here. Every situation requires the right person at the right time. Right now we don't have a clear idea of where we're headed."

Orange County Commissioners Chair Bernadette Pelissier: "He may have been taken a little out of context. He was new and he might not have understood all the political ramifications and probably should have been more careful."

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce CEO Aaron Nelson: "He really pushed. He pushed hard both publicly and privately ... He brought an outside perspective and sometimes spoke truth to power. He was very direct."

Broadwell hasn't returned our calls, so it's hard to know the full story behind his sudden resignation.  Clearly he pushed Orange County closer to where it is now, more focused on economic development. Did his plain spokenness hurt him? Two years ago we called him "the John Edwards of economic development" for quotes like this: "I don't see populist economics being discussed. I see Ph.D. economics being discussed." The Edwards comparison stings two years later, but Broadwell said what he thought, even if he didn't always check with his superiors before opening his mouth. His views on job growth and retention questioned the status quo.

Broadwell out; Orange County economic development talks to continue

Orange County’s economic development director has quit just as the county and its towns are trying to ramp up business growth and retention.

Brad Broadwell, director since May 2008, is currently using up accrued leave time on his $96,044 a year job. Broadwell, known for his frank, enthusiastic boosterism of economic development, did not return phone calls this week seeking comment.

His resignation comes as Carrboro’s longtime economic development director, James Harris, retires early next year, and as elected leaders across the county are trying to see whether they can work together to ease the tax burden on homeowners.

In an interview soon after he arrived, Broadwell said economic development, and retail jobs in particular, had gotten a bad name in Orange County. “I don’t see populist economics being discussed,” he said. “I see Ph.D. economics being discussed.”

Bernadette Pelissier, the new chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and others say Broadwell may have been misunderstood.
“He was new, and he might not have understood all the political ramifications,” Pelissier says.

Aaron Nelson, chamber CEO, says Broadwell had begun turning around Orange County's rep as a tough place to do business. "He really pushed," Nelson says, "both publicly and privately."   

Local governments will continue to see where they can collaborate, and may meet as soon as January or February to discuss forming an independent entity to manage economic development, among other ideas.

“I don’t think [Broadwell’s resignation] will stop the effort at all,” Pelissier says.

Look for more on this story in tomorrow's News & Observer and Sunday's Chapel Hill News.

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