An economic development chief from a Phoenix suburb is the top pick to head Pasco County's public-private partnership charged with recruiting business and industry.
John Hagen, who is the economic development director for Surprise, Ariz., visited Pasco County officials Thursday with three Pasco Economic Development Council board members, said County Commissioner Michael Cox.
"He's got a lot of good ideas, and I think he'll work out all right," said Cox, who expressed his disappointment in the search process last month when another finalist, former assistant schools superintendent Ray Gadd, withdrew from the running to take a job as interim chief of the troubled Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, a nonprofit social services agency.
Pasco's EDC has been without a permanent leader since the summer, when Mary Jane Stanley resigned under pressure after a decade at the helm. She is now doing consulting work, including projects for Citrus and Sumter counties.
Hagen, 59, has been the director of economic development for Surprise since 2005. Unlike the Pasco EDC, which considers itself a private agency but gets nearly half its budget from the county, Hagen's agency is a city department.
"John has a long career in economic development, urban and regional planning, marketing and public relations spanning 30 years," according to a biography on the city's Web site.
He previously lived and worked in Indiana and Michigan, the Web site said. Hagen holds a master's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University and has done graduate work in business administration at Grand Valley State University. He also has a master's degree from the University of Chicago and a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan.
He has earned the professional certification of the International Economic Development Council. He is a member of the Arizona Association for Economic Development; Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Economic Development Directors Team; and the Northwest Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
"John Hagen is a very creative person with a lot of foresight, and I think we really have someone here who's going to make a very large impact on Pasco County," said EDC chairman Wilton Simpson, who headed the search committee. Simpson said they were finalizing the details of an agreement to hire Hagen.
Surprise has a population of 100,000 and is about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. According to the regional chamber of commerce Web site, the area's top employers are Del Webb Hospital and surrounding clinics, with 1,399 staffers, followed by the city of Surprise, the Dysart School District and Walmart.
Pasco County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said Hagen left her impressed.
"I felt there was an instant rapport there," said Hildebrand. "He was very congenial and easy to talk to and articulate. I think there's going to be positive things coming from the EDC."
Hildebrand, who was listed among Gadd's references, said she had "a lot of respect and admiration" for Gadd.
"But I think he's in the right place and everything just worked out very well," she said.
Commissioner Ted Schrader, another Gadd ally, said Gadd was skilled at keeping current businesses, which Schrader considered "as crucial and critical" as recruiting new industries in such a steep economic downturn.
"I think the EDC wanted someone with more marketing skills," he said.
"It's their decision, and time will tell if it was correct."
Lisa Buie can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4604.