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IN DEVELOPMENT: Anna Evans, vice president of business retention and expansion at Show Me Christian County, is getting Kristen Haseltine, right, up to speed after she started April 25 as the organization's new president and CEO.
Rebecca Green | SBJ
IN DEVELOPMENT: Anna Evans, vice president of business retention and expansion at Show Me Christian County, is getting Kristen Haseltine, right, up to speed after she started April 25 as the organization's new president and CEO.

New leader settles in at Show Me Christian County

Kristen Haseltine transitions to role from nonprofit sector

Posted online

The second leader since Show Me Christian County’s 2017 formation is on board and in training as part of her new role for the economic development organization.

Kristen Haseltine began work April 25 as the organization’s president and CEO. She succeeded Andrea Sitzes, who took a job in early January for a market executive and vice president position with Arvest Bank.

Haseltine has 15 years of local nonprofit leadership experience, including five years with Ozark-based Children’s Smile Center as its director of community relations. She most recently worked nine months as the associate executive director for domestic violence shelter Freedom’s Rest before exiting in March. Haseltine said she intended at that time to begin working as an independent contractor for nonprofits on projects such as grant writing and event management.

However, Haseltine was contacted by a few board members of Show Me Christian County about interest in the vacant CEO position.

“I was very hesitant because I had personally thought I was going to do my own thing and have the flexibility,” Haseltine said. “That was the path I thought I needed to go down. But I kept listening and started doing my own research on economic development.”

Haseltine said she also contacted Sitzes, whom she’s known for years, for advice on the leadership role for the organization that represents Christian County’s seven municipalities in attracting businesses to the region.

“I heard what I needed to hear,” Haseltine said of deciding to apply for the job.

The SMCC board appointed a selection committee to conduct a national executive search facilitated by Columbia-based Community Growth Strategies LLC, which works with economic development organizations and chambers of commerce.

Sarah Appleby of USA Mortgage is chair of the nearly 30-member board. She said it had over 40 responses to the position, but just six applicants. Haseltine emerged as one of four finalists.

“Kristen has demonstrated proven leadership in Christian County,” Appleby said. “Her authentic belief and love for this area made her the undeniable choice.”

Haseltine said working with Children’s Smile Center connected her to all Christian County school districts, adding she also interacted with donors and secured business partnerships for nonprofit events and programs. While her leadership originated from the nonprofit world, she said her desire to serve the community carries over to Show Me Christian County.

“I felt like this gives me a better opportunity to serve,” Halestine said. “The ability to see what could possibly happen in Christian County is exciting.”

In training
After completing her second week of work for the three-employee organization, Haseltine was off to Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month for a weeklong economic development course organized by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit International Economic Development Council.

Anna Evans, SMCC’s vice president of business retention and expansion, previously attended one of the courses. She said it provides an overview of economic development, including business retention and attraction, workforce development and strategic planning. 

Evans came to the organization in March 2021 from the Ozark Chamber of Commerce, where she was its executive director. Before being hired by SMCC, she served on its 10-member Show Me Strong Business Council, which aims to retain and expand existing Christian County businesses. She now oversees the council, a volunteer group comprising business representatives from Nixa, Ozark and the county.

When hired, Evans said her position’s goal was to either conduct or help the council facilitate 120 business retention and expansion interviews with businesses in a calendar year. She said roughly 50 interviews were conducted last year – a number that was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, among other challenges. Getting that total higher is planned this year, although she and Haseltine declined to cite a specific number.

“Getting in the position and doing it full-time, day after day, gives us a better picture of maybe what’s more realistic for that element of the position,” Evans said.

One goal that was hit last year was growing the fiscal 2022 budget to $360,000 from $150,000 the previous year. That number was boosted in late 2021 after SMCC secured $50,000 annual commitments apiece from Christian County and the cities of Nixa and Ozark, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Ozark and Nixa’s annual commitment runs for five years, while Christian County’s is for three years.

“Ozark, Nixa and Christian County from the beginning of the Show Me Christian County organization all were really pivotal. It’s very important to our board and for our sustainability to have a good mix,” Evans said of public and private funding.

The relaunch of its capital campaign last year after being suspended in early 2020 amid the pandemic helped the organization reach its budget target, Evans said, adding over $200,000 came from undisclosed private donors. The fiscal 2023 budget is still under consideration, she added.

“I would intend for us to be in the same vicinity,” Haseltine said. “I don’t know how much we’re going to push for growth right now, since we’re really focused internally on how we’re going to grow.”

On the horizon
Haseltine said part of that growth is tied to staff, as a fourth employee is under consideration.

“We’re looking into that now to determine what that role is,” she said. “Right now, we’re not really clear and as I’m coming on board, we’re evaluating and going through that.”

The SMCC board also is studying the organization’s strategic plan – a process that started prior to Haseltine’s hiring.

“I’ve been hearing from board members and staff on what we’re doing, where do we want to go, and taking that in so that we can get to the point of creating the goals,” she said.

While she’s already learning on the job, Haseltine acknowledged there’s a learning curve coming to economic development from the nonprofit sector.

“I keep telling myself to slow down because it’s only been two weeks,” she said. “You can’t get a plan and solve everything in a couple of weeks. It’s going to take a little bit of time.”

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