Washington County names new director of business development

After searching for the better part of a year, Washington County has selected a former state economic development official to head up its Department of Business Development, county officials announced Tuesday.

Kathleen “Kassie” Lewis was introduced in her new position during the weekly Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting in Hagerstown.

Lewis comes to the county after spending six years with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, serving as business development director, director of strategic initiatives and, most recently, as manager of federal facilities, according to a county news release.

She was hired at a salary of $81,823, which is the county’s Grade 17, Step 10 level. The vote was 4-1, with Terry Baker casting the dissenting vote, saying he’d prefer to wait until November when the new board is elected.

“I just think you don’t know the direction of the new board, we’re obviously going to have some new commissioners,” Baker said. Other commissioners disagreed, saying the position needs to be filled immediately to ensure the county stays competitive with surrounding states.

“I think we serve the county and community well in choosing someone who is well-experienced in the regulatory process,” Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said. “And we cannot wait for progress, or we’re going to be run over while the train crosses Washington County and goes to Pennsylvania.”

In her previous roles, Lewis implemented statewide programs forging coalitions with multiple stakeholders to address specific business issues, like TEAM Maryland Network to increase small business win rates for federal government contracts and Credit Connections to increases businesses’ access to capital funding, according to the county release.

She also worked with other state officials to hold events, cultivate relationships with prospective businesses, provide insight into available real estate markets and prepared data packages to showcase Maryland as a viable location for business, county officials said.

Prior to her tenure with the state department, Lewis worked as manager of special markets with the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development and director of economic development for Carroll County, Md.

“From her longstanding relationships with DBED, to her feet on the street success in county level business and economic development, Kassie’s skillset and experience uniquely match our organizational needs,” Commissioner John F. Barr said in the release.

In her new role, Lewis will serve as the primary sales and development driver for the county and act as the staff liaison to the Economic Development Commission board.

Working under the director of Assistant County Administrator Sarah L. Sprecher, Lewis will manage department staff and be responsible for the development and implementation of strategic programs to encourage business relocation, retention and expansion in the county.

“We wanted the candidate with the strongest credentials to build upon the growth efforts already under way in our community and we’ve found that with this hire,” Barr said. “Kassie’s outside perspective will help in identifying fresh opportunities to advance economic development opportunities in Washington County citizens.”

A resident of Carroll County, Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Towson University, a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland, and is a graduate student of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute, a premiere economic development training program in the nation, county officials said.

Lewis’ office will be in the County Administration Building at 100 W. Washington St., in Hagerstown.