ROCK FALLS – Former Fulton city administrator Randy Balk has been named executive director of the Rock Falls Community Development Corporation.
Balk, 60, takes over for the retired Sandy Henrekin, whose last day was March 14. Henrekin, a charter member of the organization, had served as executive director since 2007.
A native of Fulton, Balk was city administrator for 13 years before retiring last fall. He previously served as Fulton water and sewer superintendent for 7 years. He worked for Moline water equipment company Zimmer and Francescon for 13 years, and started a consulting business that assisted municipalities with Environmental Protection Agency noncompliance issues.
Balk said he enjoyed his time in Fulton, but he was ready for a new challenge.
“When I was city administrator, the part of that job I liked most was economic development,” he said. “I knew Sandy and many of the same people she worked with – locally, regionally, legislators, and those involved with grant opportunities.”
Balk appreciates Henrekin’s availability as he gets settled in.
“Sandy has been so helpful – she was the first person I called when I started,” Balk said.
“She has caller ID, and she’s still answering my calls,” he said with a laugh.
The RFCDC board of directors thinks Balk is “the right person at the right time,” board president Norm Deets said.
“We were looking for experience, someone who knew how government works, and someone with economic development contacts,” Deets said. “We’ve been very lucky in that Sandy was also the right person at that time.”
The extreme ups and downs that are the nature of economic development also made maturity a priority for the board, Deets said. Leaders can put years of work into a project, only to see it derailed in the homestretch, Deets said, citing BioPro as an example.
“There are so many peaks and valleys that it takes a lot out of you,” Deets said. “This is a tough, high-burnout job.”
Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott said he believes Balk is well-equipped to lead at a crucial time for the city and region.
“He brings a vast knowledge of municipal government and economic development,” Wescott said. “As we move forward with the riverfront and downtown developments, and other economic opportunities in the city, we are confident with the leadership he will provide.”
Heather Sotelo, executive director at Greater Sterling Development Corporation, has known Balk for about 6 years, and worked closely with him on the Whiteside County housing program. She said she is excited about the hire.
“He’s a great guy, and I think he’ll do a great job,” Sotelo said.
His background as a city manager should serve him well in his new position, Sotelo said.
“Randy is definitely knowledgeable,” Sotelo said. “He understands regionalism and how to get grants,” Sotelo said.
Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard said he couldn’t be more pleased with the selection. He said he has always respected the way Balk worked his way up at city hall in Fulton, and how quickly he learned the ropes.
“He is a positive person who gets involved in a lot of things and does things for the right reasons,” Shumard said. “He was involved in downtown development, the windmill project, and did quite a bit of volunteer work.”
Balk started his new job on April 7.w He says he is excited about the prospects for growth throughout the area.
“The opportunities with the riverfront on the Rock Falls and Sterling sides are remarkable,” Balk said. “We have to enhance opportunities for those who want to invest here.”
Eye on Growth
The Rock Falls Development Corporation and new executive director Randy Balk have identified the following economic development priorities:
– Protecting and growing existing businesses
– Continued development of the downtown and riverfront
– Infrastructure improvements
– Develop interchanges along I-88
– Improved housing
– Further development of the fiber-optic network
– Replacement of lost industry and jobs