TUPELO — Following what officials describe as an “extensive” national search, the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation board of directors announced that David P. Rumbarger, a 40-year-old Atlanta executive with Mississippi ties, would succeed longtime CDF leader Harry A. Martin as president. According to Jeff Barber, CDF board chairman and head of the search committee, Rumbarger’s appointment will become effective Aug. 28. Martin served as president for 44 years.
Most recently president and chief operating officer of Conway Data in Atlanta, the publisher of Site Selection, Rumbarger is no stranger to Mississippi economic development circles. From 1987 to 1996, Rumbarger served as president/secretary and in various cabinet positions with the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg. His resume also includes stints with Carolina Power and Light and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
A Birmingham native, Rumbarger received a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and completed Duke University’s advanced management program through the Fuqua School of Business. He holds the designation of Certified Economic Developer from the American Economic Development Council.
“David Rumbarger has established a successful track record in economic and community development and was able to recruit some very large companies during his experience in Hattiesburg,” Barber stated in a telephone interview following the announcement. “We believe his energy and leadership style will be of great value to CDF’s efforts.” Barber said some of the companies recruited to Hattiesburg during Rumbarger’s stay included Sunbeam-Oster and Kohler Company. Barber said Rumbarger also led a successful community bond issue vote for a conference and convention center.
The selection of a new CDF president has been a topic of much discussion in Northeast Mississippi and throughout economic development circles, given Martin’s tenure at the CDF helm. Barber said that Rumbarger was the search committee’s “top choice” because Rumbarger possessed “impressive economic development experience in both the public and private sector.”
Several community and business leaders expressed enthusiasm about the appointment.
“We are lucky to get him,” said Bill Hannah, vice president of sales and marketing for JESCO Inc. Construction who knew Rumbarger when both were involved in economic development activities in Alabama. “David is one of the most intelligent and hard working people in the economic development profession. He’s a leader in whatever he does.”
Rumbarger didn’t detail specific priorities during a brief interview following the announcement. He said initially he will be busy learning more about the community and CDF and will use CDF’s 10-year planning study to guide efforts. He said he has always been impressed with the region and looks forward to building on the area’s economic strengths. He and his wife Donna have two school-age children.
Martin, who has led CDF for 44 years, will receive the title of president emeritus and will work on various consulting projects. Martin announced his retirement earlier this year.
Barber led a four-member search committee that also included bank CEOs Aubrey Patterson and John Smith and Hancock Fabrics CEO Larry Kirk. Maryland consultant Joan Jorgensen was enlisted to identify potential candidates for consideration.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at email@example.com or (601) 364-1018.