(Red Oak) -- The search is on for a new economic development director in Montgomery County.
Friday was the last day for Shawnna Silvius as head of the Montgomery County Development Corporation. Silvius recently announced her resignation after three years on the job to accept a position with a Douglas County planning firm. Silvius tells KMA News she took the new job after encountering both successes and roadblocks in Montgomery County.
"We've had a lot of accomplishments in the last three years," said Silvius. "I had this opportunity present itself to me that I couldn't turn down. So, just a lot of different things played into it. It was kind of a multifaceted decision, with different things coming from different directions."
In leaving MCDC, Silvius recalls some of the agency's major achievements during her tenure--such as the $5.4 million renovation of Red Oak's former middle school facility into income-based housing units.
"So, we're basically saving the building," said Silvius. "We're turning that over, restructuring that into a 25-unit apartment complex. There will be one, two, and three-bedroom units in there, and those will be available coming June of 2021. So, that project was a real significant contribution to the community. It'll save that building. So many communities have empty school buildings. We were able to get that turned around before the building was vacated."
Silvius says the money saved from the middle school's demolition was used to renovate Red Oak's former Washington Elementary School into the Montgomery County Early Childhood Development Center. She says the project helped meet an urgent need for child care services in the county.
"We were identified in 2018 as the most critical county for not being able to fill 1,152 children in licensed child care facilities. So, we did a countywide initiative."
Silvius says other communities joined the countywide early childhood initiative.
"Stanton is continuing to expand their daycare center," she said. "Villisca has opened two rooms in their elementary building. So, we've seen an expansion of their child care services. Sunshine and Rainbows here in Red Oak is now filled to capacity. Head Start is in the facility, as well, and they've continued to make improvements to their facility, and look at some expansion, as well."
Another accomplishment is the $6.4 million Reconnect grant/loan awarded to Farmers Mutual Telephone Company in Stanton in December, 2019 to increase fiber optic services in the 623 service area.
"We will have fiber optic-delivered broadband service--which is high capacity--to every home and business in the entire county," said Silvius. "The only thing remaining is inside the city limits of Red Oak. We are on target to be very first county in the country with one gig of fiber optic-delivered broadband to every home and business."
Silvius and her family plan to remain in Red Oak. Information on filling the vacancy is posted on Montgomery County's and the city of Red Oak's websites.