Movin’ on up


Tis the season for new faces in high places. The beginning of the year always brings a round of turnover at top leadership positions. This year is no exception as a good bit of office space in the Tri-Cities will be redecorated to the tastes of new tenants.

Elections bring turnover, of course, and when incoming Tennessee Governor Bill Lee went looking for a Commissioner to run the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, he found Dr. Jeff McCord, who has most recently been vice president for Economic and Workforce Development at Northeast State Community College. McCord has led Workforce Solutions, a workforce development program that includes the development of registered apprenticeship programs and the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM), a technical career academy.

In addition to organizational leadership for the Adult Education programming for the First Tennessee Development District, McCord also serves as the lead administrator for the nationally recognized Kingsport Academic Village.

His official bio says McCord, “has over 20 years of business and industry experience including a number of leadership positions and specific experience related to organizational effectiveness and corporate education.” I can say from having worked with him on a couple of regional boards devoted to improving the quality of the workforce in Northeast Tennessee and from having seen him present at the Governor’s Conference for Economic Development in 2017 that he is well-qualified. I have no doubt he will serve the citizens and businesses of Tennessee well.

As McCord steps away from his VP slot at Northeast State, a new president is beginning her term in office at the college. Dr. Bethany Flora is settling into the office most recently held by interim president James King, who righted the ship from financial difficulties incurred under the previous administration.

Dr. Flora has been part of the regional education community for some time, having served as associate director of the Center for Community College Leadership at ETSU, where she also served as an associate professor of postsecondary leadership in ETSU’s Clemmer College (formerly the Clemmer College of Education).

Dr. Flora has a first-hand understanding of the full regional higher education environment, having earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration at Virginia Tech, her M.A. in Organizational Management at Tusculum University and her B.A. in Business and Public Administration at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Next door to Northeast State at the Tri-Cities Airport, the Airport Authority members travelled to MeadowView Conference, Resort and Convention Center Monday morning to interview the three finalists for the director’s position vacated by Patrick Wilson last fall.

I talked with Dr. Jon Smith, airport authority chair after the interviews were completed and he confirmed that Gene Cossey, executive director of the University of Illinois – Willard Airport is the candidate the airport will move forward with in the hiring process. “We interviewed three extraordinarily well-qualified candidates,” Smith told me, “after which we had extensive discussions. We agreed that Gene Cossey is the candidate with whom we would like to begin the hiring process.”

Cossey still has to complete his obligations to his current employer, so deputy executive director David Jones will continue as interim until Cossey is free and clear to fly south. Cossey has been with the University of Illinois – Willard Airport since December 2015. He has worked in aviation operations management since he was 19 years old and has held positions at five airports in a career spanning more than 30 years. Prior to working at Willard Airport, Cossey was the director of Operations at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the director of Airside Operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Cossey spent the majority of his career on the Oregon Coast where he was the operations manager and director of Information Technology at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport, and airport director at the Newport Municipal Airport. He is an accredited airport executive with the American Association of Airport Executives and is an International Airport Professional with the Airport Council International.

In addition to all that experience, one other thing was particularly appreciated by the authority, or at least by Smith. “Gene,” Smith said, “is a great guy.”

Just a few miles up the Bobby Hicks Highway from the airport, Frontier Health is welcoming its new CEO. Former Chief Operating Officer Kristie Hammonds will take over from the retiring Dr. Teresa Kidd. Dr. Kidd, who performed more than 36 years of service to the citizens of the region in both clinical and administrative roles, was one of the first Healthcare Heroes honored by our sister publication, The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA. She had worked under two other well-respected CEOs, Doug Varney and Charlie Good.

Frontier Health Chairman of the Board Duane Miller was effusive in his praise of Hammonds, who has degrees from Milligan and ETSU and was a 2018 Healthcare Hero. “Ms. Hammonds is known and respected locally, regionally and statewide for her understanding that individuals who are in need of behavioral health care for their mental illness, addiction, or intellectual or developmental disability must receive integrated care to meet both their physical as well as behavioral health needs,” Miller said. “Ms. Hammonds’ leadership skills and her ability to collaborate with others in the ongoing effort to provide quality care to the individuals of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia make her a natural successor as Frontier Health’s new CEO. The Board is very pleased Ms. Hammonds has agreed to take the helm of Frontier Health.”

That’s four major leadership changes in a little more than five miles of road. We’re fortunate to live in a region that can generate leaders on a statewide level, generate new leaders for itself and attract other leaders from faraway markets.


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