Newton County has a new interim director of economic development.

Mike Franks has been named to the post which became vacant on the death of long-time director Gib Garrow. Ray Stipp, chairman of the economic development committee, made the announcement Thursday during the group’s quarterly meeting, held at the community room of New-Mac Electric Cooperative. The meeting was the group’s first since Garrow died in early November.

“I know this is tough,” said Stipp, a longtime friend of Garrow’s. “But life must go on. We must go on. As I think about a successor for Gib, I think we need to take the time and the energy to find the right person. I’ve suggested to the parties most involved in the search that we needed an interim guy, one who will work with us and deal with the pressing issues of the search.”

Stipp said Franks, a Neosho native, not only understood his hometown but also economic players both in the town and beyond.

“He can help us fill the role of director and also help us with things that are currently on the table,” Stipp said.

“I’m not trying to be Gib’s replacement,” Franks said. “I do believe in the work that this body has been doing. I think about anybody from this area, or a lifelong resident of this area, would be willing to do it. I do ask anybody here to help me to do it. I think I can help the chamber staff and the NABIFI folks keep a hand on the tiller and keep it pointed in the right direction.”

Projects on the table right now include the national breakfast restaurant chain Denny’s, which has expressed interest in the former Shoney’s building on Interstate 49 Business near Walmart, and Love’s Truck Stop, which intends to build a new truck stop and convenience store near the New-Mac location at the off ramp of Interstate 49 and Missouri Highway 86.

Franks has a background in both business and public service. He was twice elected to the Neosho R-5 Board of Education, served as president of the Missouri State University Board of Governors, served as the founding president of the Neosho R-5 Foundation, and served as president of the Neosho Area Community Foundation. He also has 30 years experience in private industry.

Earlier last week, the transportation development district board of directors tabbed Kathy Gambill with the chamber as the TDD’s executive director, a position Garrow held since the board’s formation until his death.

More on Thursday’s meeting will be in upcoming editions of the Neosho Daily News.