The Roundup -

Wenko Named New Williston Economic Development Director

 

Shawn Wenko

Williston's Economic Development (WED) Department is under new leadership. The City of Williston named 38-year-old Shawn Wenko as the department's executive director effective on Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

Wenko, a Williston native, returned to his hometown in 2008 to join WED. As deputy director he initially focused on the Williston City Commission's "Build Williston Initiative" which was designed to enhance the three pillars of community development: housing, workforce, and quality of life.

Going forward, Wenko will be in charge of arguably the most enviable ED job in the country. Williston has been named the fastest growing micropolitan in the country for the past three years and the City has an unemployment rate of less than one percent.

"We are in a fortunate position, and it's important to capitalize and continue our investment in economic development," said Wenko. "Building industry diversification, staying competitive, and enhancing quality of life are all the things that will take us to the next level as a city."

Wenko said one of his initial efforts will be defining WED's role in the City's future.

"My first goal is to create a Program of Work for 2015 that will highlight several key strategies which our office can focus on. Two of our initial strategies involve partnering with the local Job Service office to create a workforce development plan and creating an annual manufacturing logistics conference to attract more manufacturers to meet the growing needs of the oil field," said Wenko. "We want the oil and gas industry to remain sustainable for generations to come."

Wenko said WED faces the same challenges as its associates who are challenged to find workable business plans.

"We are in a unique situation where traditional economic development practice doesn't necessarily apply to us. Promoting affordable housing development, infrastructure development and quality of life enhancements will continue to be a key element of focus for our office."

Wenko replaces longtime WED executive director Tom Rolfstad. Rolfstad spent about 25 years leading ED efforts in the Williston region.

"We feel Shawn Wenko is the person to lead the City's future economic development efforts," said City of Williston Mayor Howard Klug. "We expect the transition between Rolfstad and Wenko to be seamless."

Wenko has played a key role in a number of major developments in Williston: he assisted in the initial design and implementation phases of the Western Star Career and Technical Center located on Williston State College Campus; he helped with the planning and development phase of the new Train ND Petroleum Training Center and he facilitated a partnership with Williston Job Service to host a bi-annual career fair which has become a model now practiced across North Dakota.

Wenko holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hospitality Administration from Black Hills State University and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Sustainable Destination Management from the George Washington University in Washington D.C.

He is a board member for the Economic Development Association of North Dakota and the Williston Chamber of Commerce.

Wenko and his wife Kim have two young daughters, Brooklyn and London.

 

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