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PEP Hires Executive Director

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Eric Depperschmidt has been hired by the Prowers Economic Prosperity (PEP) board to serve as its new Executive Director. The unanimous vote was taken during a special PEP directors meeting on Friday, February 17th.  The hiring of an experienced director is pivotal to the future implementation of the Prowers County Economic Prosperity Plan.

A western Kansas native, Eric Depperschmidt has worked as a loan officer in commercial and agricultural banking in western Kansas for the past five years. Prior to working in banking, Eric was president/CEO of Finney County Economic Development Corporation in Garden City, KS for five years and director of the Ness County Economic Development in Ness City, KS for two years.  Depperschmidt developed the Economic Development programs for Finney and Ness Counties to assist small rural communities with economic growth.  He also served as chairman and president for the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance (wKREDA) and was a member of the Great Plains Development Incorporation Tax Credit Committee.  Prior to economic development, Depperschmidt served as Kansas 1st District Legislative Assistant for Congressman Jerry Moran, where he acted as liaison for the Congressman in western Kansas.  His areas of responsibility were agriculture, rural development, military and veterans affairs issues.

Depperschmidt graduated from Fort Hays State University, (FHSU) with a Bachelor’s of Arts in History with emphasis in Political Science. Eric received his degree from FHSU after serving four years in the United States Air Force and two years with the Kansas Air National Guard.  He is also a graduate of Oklahoma University Economic Development Institute.

Depperschmidt has two sons, Alex and Ethan.

PEP plans to hire a Project Coordinator in the near future to work in tandem with and report to the Executive Director. The Project Coordinator will provide high-level assistance to the Director to create an economic development team for PEP, existing and incoming businesses, and all Prowers County residents.

To read PEP’s roadmap for future economic development or to learn more about the Project Coordinator position, see www.prowerspep.org or contact the PEP office at 336-2384.

This is the first time PEP has had a permanent executive director in over two years. Lance Benninghoff was employed for almost two years, resigning in January, 2015.  George Gotto was hired as an interim executive director and stepped down about six months after having taken up the reins in May of 2015.  Depperschmidt’s first day with PEP will be Monday, March 6th, just prior to the regularly scheduled director’s meeting on the 7th.

PEP Treasurer, Lawrence Brase said there were six candidates considered for the position and added, “The search was national in scope with one application from Mississippi and several from the region. There were none who were locally oriented.”  Rick Robbins, PEP President said, “Depperschmidt did a full interview and then he toured Prowers County and we conducted a personal interview and we did an additional phone interview at the end.”

LCC President, Linda Lujan, said a clincher for his employment was, “His prior work experience and his connections to communities very similar to Prowers County.” The search committee had decided at the outset of the search that a viable candidate had to have had a working familiarity with a rural lifestyle.  Robbins added that Depperschmidt was entrenched in economic development in Garden City, Kansas for his five years there and at a time when economic development in that western Kansas community underwent an extreme growth period that continues to this day.

Brase said the search for a Project Coordinator is currently open, but on hold as far as a decision being made for hiring the individual. “We feel that as we have a director we would like the director to establish how he prefers to make the office work and we will allow him to follow his lead and have leeway to make decisions on who he wants to work with in the PEP office.”  Several receptions are being planned for the communities in Prowers County to provide an in-person meeting with Depperschmidt.

By Russ Baldwin

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