The shape of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) will be changing in the coming months, as two of its current board members will be stepping away to work on different projects.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler announced at Wednesday’s board meeting that both Cody Gibson and Ron Pfaff will no long be on the board after January’s meeting.
While Pfaff was not in attendance Wednesday, Gibson was, and he was on the receiving end of several well-wishes and accolades by other members of the board.
(More information on Pfaff’s future will appear in a future edition of the Commonwealth Journal.)
Girdler and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck both noted that two of the largest accomplishments within the board’s short life have been spearheaded by Gibson.
“It’s absolutely fair to say that neither the National Guard nor Horse Soldier Bourbon would have happened without you,” Keck told Gibson. “You can always be proud of that. Those are historic accomplishments.”
Girdler recounted the story that Gibson first learned of Horse Soldier Bourbon via listening to an interview the company’s founders did on a podcast. Gibson then went to Keck, insisting that he reach out to them and pitch Somerset as a place for them to relocate.
He remained a passionate supporter of the project throughout negotiations, and has been able to see it go from a dream to reality. The company has purchased the former Waitsboro Hills Golf Course and plans are underway to build a bourbon distillery there.
The other project mentioned – the National Guard’s plan to build a regional readiness center at the new SPEDA Commerce Park – also came about through Gibson’s initiative, Girdler said.
“Cody has a lot of connections within the National Guard, through his service and through his father’s service. He’s very well respected throughout the various ranks and the various people who are a part of that entity. Even before SPEDA was started, I remember Cody talking to me about how we really need to get a regional National Guard center in Somerset and Pulaski County,” Girdler said.
Besides those two projects, Gibson said he was proud of helping with the current plans of bringing a Veterans Park to downtown Somerset.
“I know I didn’t see it through, but I’m very excited to help get the Veterans Park started,” Gibson said. “I think a quite place of reflection for veterans in our community – for a community of our size – is needed. And I think it’s well within our scope to make sure that that’s provided.”
Gibson thanked board member and Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley “for giving this platform for us to all come together and use our skills together to grow. It has been really special to be a part of.”
As for Gibson’s future plans, he said he was stepping away in part because he has a 10-month-old baby at home, plus he and his wife plan on adopting very soon.
“Anyone who knows me knows I like to put 110% into anything I’m doing. With my other businesses and a house full of kids, it’s going to be very hard to do that,” and remain on the board, he explained.
He said one of those business pursuits is working as a political consultant. There is no current conflict of interest with that and being a part of SPEDA, but he said he is looking toward the future and doesn’t want to create a potential conflict.
“I’m looking forward to what’s next, and I’m very thankful for the mentorship and leadership that this board is currently providing and has provided for me,” Gibson said. “I was just very excited to have a small hand in some major projects that I hope will leave a lasting impact on this community.”
When asked about who he would like to see replace him on the board, Gibson said, “I’m looking forward to being followed up by somebody that’s outside the typical orbit. Someone that brings a little diversity and different walk of life to this board.”
His advice for potential new board members was simple: “Be yourself, first and foremost. Rely on what you know, listen to the things that you don’t know, and always keep the community at the center of it.”