Experience as a small business owner, elected official and aviator is a part of what Jesse Quillen brings to the table as the new executive director of Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation.
Quillen has been appointed to the vacant position since February this year, when WEDC Executive Director Jonathan Tullos was appointed as Corporate City Administrator.
The WEDC is the economic engine of the Counties of Café and Geneva – and the municipalities located there – and of the city of Daleville. Trent Dillard is the chairman of the organization’s board of directors. The board of directors is made up of elected representatives from all the regions served.
In May, WEDC’s board of directors partnered with Next Move Group to continue recruiting an economic developer. Among the services of the company with offices in New Orleans, La .; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Greenville, SC, Next Move conducts executive research and designs business development products for small and medium businesses, communities and organizations.
Dillard said that after the July 9 deadline for submission of nominations, Zoom interviews with finalists and an in-person interview, Quillen became the successful candidate.
Quillen holds a master’s degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi at Oxford.
Quillen worked for 20 years in the insurance business his family had operated for 50 years in Bruce, Mississippi, but said he realized his interest was more in serving his community through an elective mandate. “My father told me I was crazy to get into politics,” he recalls with a smile.
Quillen said his interest in economic development evolved when he was mayor of his hometown for nearly a decade. “In small communities, the mayor often serves as the economic development officer,” he said. “This is where I like to say that I found my calling in life, albeit late in life.”
Quillen is a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, the Alabama Economic Development Association, the South Alabama Workforce Development Council, and the
Warrior Tombigbee Waterway Association.
Quillen is a licensed private pilot and earned the title of Certified Advanced Municipal Official from the Mississippi Municipal League and Economic Development Finance Professional from the National Development Organization. He holds a Lean Manufacturing and Office Certificate from the Alabama Technology Network.
Guillen also co-owns, with his son, three coffee shops in Clark County, in the town of Jackson, Alabama. Running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered his respect for small business owners, he said.
Guillen said he was “very excited” to be in the Wiregrass and spent his first week on duty visiting each of the towns served by the WEDC. “Every community has so many assets,” he said. “We just need to tell this story.”