RALEIGH, NC (WECT) – N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker announced Friday that Dr. Patricia Mitchell will take the helm of the newly created rural economic development division at the N.C. Department of Commerce.
"Pat has the ideal combination of professional experience, policy expertise and passion for rural North Carolina that we need to lead this new division," said Decker. "As a former county school board member, university professor and instructor, she also understands the important connection between education and economic development."
Mitchell, an assistant secretary, will make $105,000. She will oversee three programs being transferred from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, which was defunded this summer by the state legislature. These programs will provide assistance for building reuse and restoration, water and sewer infrastructure, and economic innovation in rural communities.
The rural division will also include three programs already housed at Commerce, the Division of Community Assistance, NC Broadband, Main Street and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Mitchell served as Ashe County's economic developer for seven years. She was also the county's manager until two weeks ago when the board of commissioners asked her to resign. During a conference call Friday, Mitchell said she didn't know what motivated the board's request.
Mitchell served on the Rural Center board of directors from 2007 to 2013. She was also a member of the five-person committee that worked to transition three Rural Center grant programs to Commerce, as outlined in the state budget.
The Rural Center will remain open in a smaller form and focus on leadership development, according to Decker. About 16 Rural Center employees will be transferred to Commerce, she said.
The secretary was unable to advise how many employees the division will have or what its budget will be.
Most division employees will likely be based in Raleigh, although more resources will be dispersed throughout the state than in the past, she said.
Mitchell said it's important that people in rural communities know how to access economic development resources. One of her first priorities will be to visit rural communities throughout the state.
Mitchell is an adjunct faculty member at Appalachian State University, Nova Southeastern University and N.C. State University. She was also an assistant professor at East Carolina University. Mitchell has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses in public administration, grant management and economic development policy. In addition, Mitchell is an instructor at the N.C. Rural Center Rural Economic Development Institute and the UNC School of Government.
She currently serves in leadership roles on the N.C. Economic Developers Association Board of Directors and Local Developers Advisory Council for the AdvantageWest Regional Economic Development Group.
Mitchell received her Doctorate and Master's Degrees in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. She has a bachelor's degree in English and Language Arts from Berry College. Mitchell also holds a Certified Economic Developer distinction through the International Economic Development Council.
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