John Payne, the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council's new Executive Director.Staff Photo by Kimberly McMillian/Chattanooga Times Free Press
DAYTON, Tenn. — A former Franklin County Industrial Development Board director will begin work Thursday as the executive director of the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council.
At the annual Manufacturing Industry Appreciation reception Monday, John Payne told nearly 50 industrial managers, commissioners, mayors and economic board members that Rhea County had "a lot of potential" for growth directly spinning off Volkswagen in Chattanooga.
Payne, a native of Wisconsin, said Rhea County's growth would "take some work ... and a unified, cohesive plan from the stakeholders in county government."
Tom Taylor, chairman of the council's board, said Payne's more than 20 years of manufacturing and management experience, including service on the state's economic board, contributed to the decision to hire him.
The current executive director, Raymond Walker, earlier this year announced his plans to retire in early 2012 after eight years. The Economic and Tourism Council board began reviewing applications nearly six months ago and interviewing in September to allow for a three-month training period with Walker before he retired.
Before the reception ended, state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said he attributed much of Rhea's recent growth to the faithful and courteous efforts of Walker and that he would miss working with him.
Walker addressed the crowd at his last industrial reception as director with a somber tone of gratitude.
"We should never be in such a hurry ... to not say, 'Thank you,'" he said, and expressed his appreciation to businesses and leaders he worked with as executive director.
Walker stressed over the last year that economic development would result from community development.
Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at email@example.com.