Regional planning group chooses new director

Michelle Holt

The Benton-Franklin Council of Governments has tapped Michelle Holt to succeed Stephanie Seamans as executive director.

Holt will begin on Feb. 15.

She comes to the job from the College of Eastern Idaho, where she has served as executive director for Workforce Training and Continuing Education since December 2016.

She previously held leadership positions with the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Snake River Territory Convention & Visitors Bureau and Lost Rivers Economic Development Inc.

In her new post, Holt will raise the profile of the local council of governments and its role, which is to unite various government entities of the Mid-Columbia behind initiatives that promote economic vitality.

Her résumé includes leading a bicounty economic development agency in her adopted home state of Idaho, an experience that will serve her well in the Mid-Columbia.

The Benton-Franklin Council of Governments is a voluntary association of 17 local counties, cities and ports, with all the conflict that goes along with competing interests and personalities. The local COG serves Burbank, in western Walla Walla County, as well.

Holt grew up in a military family that settled in Idaho when she was in middle school.

She considers herself a native but said she and her husband were interested in relocating as they entered their empty nest years.

She visited the Tri-Cities about a year ago for a job interview.

She found it both welcoming and sharing in many of the features that dominate eastern Idaho – a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory, a high mountain desert climate and lots of industry.

“The Tri-Cities wins out in the weather department and access to water,” she joked.

The similarities go beyond geography.

Holt said she is familiar with working across multiple jurisdictions.

While the Benton-Franklin organization tends to run in the background, Holt said wants to elevate its profile and capabilities.

She worked with councils of government in Idaho and notes that individual councils reflect local priorities, from transportation planning and economic development to affordable housing and veterans’ affairs.

The Benton-Franklin entity is involved in transportation planning, economic development and a revolving loan program.

“I want the community and jurisdictional partners to understand BFCOG is there to be a partner and a convener order to help drive economic prosperity,” she said. “To do that, we are the conduit between them.”

Skip Novakovich, board president and a member of the Port of Kennewick Commission, said Holt brings a track record of working across municipal, state and federal government.

“I am delighted to have Michelle coming on board,” he said.

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