- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Williston Economic Development is under new leadership.

Shawn Wenko, of Williston, has been named the office’s new executive director and started the job on Oct. 22. He replaces longtime executive director Tom Rolfstad, who spent about 25 years leading economic development efforts in the Williston region. Rolfstad announced his retirement to the city commission in July, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1t5MURp ) reported.

“We feel Shawn Wenko is the person to lead the city’s future economic development efforts,” said Williston Mayor Howard Klug in a press release. “We expect the transition between Rolfstad and Wenko to be seamless.”

Wenko was named the office’s deputy director six years ago and has since focused on the city’s “Build Williston Initiative,” which was designed to enhance three pillars of community development: housing, workforce and quality of life.

Among his achievements, he has helped plan and develop both the Western Star Career and Technical Center and TrainND Petroleum Training Center on the Williston State College campus, along with facilitating a partnership with Job Service North Dakota in Williston to host a biannual career fair.

Wenko, 38, will now be in charge of “arguably the most enviable economic development job in the country,” according to a press release from his office, as Williston has been named the fastest growing metropolitan in the country the past three years, and the city has kept its unemployment rate under 1 percent.

“We are in a fortunate position, and it’s important to capitalize and continue our investment in economic development,” Wenko said in a press release. “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’s first goal is to create “Program of Work for 2015.” His office will partner with Job Service to create a workforce development plan and create annual manufacturing logistics to attract more manufacturers to meet the growing needs of the oil field.

“We want the oil and gas industry to remain sustainable for generations to come,” Wenko said, adding that his office faces the same uphill climb 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 holds a Bachelor of Science in hospitality administration from Black Hills State University in South Dakota and a Master of Business Administration 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.

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com


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