By Tammy Leytham
Jen Dearman loves to learn. As the community and economic development director for the city of Pascagoula, it’s important to her to improve her skills in order to bring more business to the city.
So, she said it’s a special privilege to receive the 2015 Ray & Jimmy Heidel Economic Development Leadership Award – awarded to her last week at the Mississippi Economic Development Council’s winter conference.
The award is given as part of one training opportunity – the True South Basic Economic Development Course, a four-day class at the University of Southern Mississippi.
“It’s a great honor,” Dearman said. “It’s great recognition for having potential and strong leadership skills in economic development.”
And, as a benefit of the award she gets to continue learning with a full tuition scholarship for one year to either the Economic Development Institute or the Community Development Institute.
“It’s a great privilege,” Dearman said. “I like improving my skills with different programs. So I’m excited to get started on the next thing – hopefully I can use the information I obtain to help Pascagoula and further everybody along.”
She’s leaning toward a program at the University of Oklahoma, a hybrid, two-year certification program that’s part online, part on-campus. “There’s some testing you have to do – it’s a tough program, but it’s one of those very desirable certifications that shows you know what you are doing.”
The True South Basic Economic Development Course draws participants from across the state – both municipal professional and industry leaders.
“It’s a great opportunity. I would recommend it,” Dearman said.
The Ray Heidel Leadership Award was established in 1995 by the Economic Council to honor Heidel’s life and contributions to the profession.
In 1999, the name was changed to The Ray and Jimmy Heidel Economic Development Leadership Award to recognize Jimmy Heidel’s contributions to the profession on both the local and statewide levels.
Criteria for the award includes:
- Member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council;
- Employed as a business development professional within the State of Mississippi;
- Participant in the TrueSouth Economic Development Course at the University of Southern Mississippi; and
- Exhibits fully developed leadership skills or potential for leadership skills.
Dearman has a bachelor’s of arts degree in cultural anthropology from Mississippi State University and a master’s of arts in applied urban anthropology from the University of Memphis.
She also holds a graduate certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Memphis. Prior to the director’s position, Dearman worked as the grants administrator for Pascagoula.
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