Ken Becker didn’t expect to be leaving Brownwood this soon. But on Monday, the associate vice president at the Brownwood Center of Texas State Technical College accepted an offer to become the new executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development.
He will begin his duties there Oct. 1.
“I really wasn’t looking for anything like this, but it’s a great opportunity,” Becker said Wednesday, the day the appointment was announced in Sweetwater.
Becker said the position is also a logical progression for him. For 25 years, Becker lived in Sweetwater, and he was the executive vice president of the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce from 1994 to 2004. He has worked for TSTC-West Texas for the past three years, including more than a year at the Brownwood campus.
“Brownwood really opened its arms to Carla and I,” Becker said. “This is a great community, and it’s really been a great experience. When they say it feels like home, that’s because it really does.”
Becker will be leaving board positions with the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, Brown County United Way and Brownwood Rotary Club, along with other volunteer positions with Preservation Partnership and Family Services Center. He is active in First United Methodist Church of Brownwood.
When he arrived at the Brownwood TSTC center in March 2006, Becker said he found the campus “in great shape. We built on that existing foundation, trying to see what the community’s needs were… As far as enrollment goes, we’re flirting with record numbers again this fall.”
Progress will continue on an application to offer an associate degree in nursing, he said. The state will consider its request in October, and if approved, the program could begin offering classes in January.
“It’s a transitional program,” Becker said. “Students will already have an LVN degree plus one year in the field. Down the line, perhaps TSTC can offer a stand-alone program, too.”
Meanwhile, the Brownwood center will continue working with the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation — the Brownwood counterpart to the organization he will lead in Sweetwater — to develop a use plan for the planned expansion of its facilities. State offices currently housed in the former Montgomery Ward building are expected to be relocated to a new facility in the Camp Bowie area later this year, and TSTC is working with an architect to maximize the building for future use.
“I’m also very satisfied with the progress being made on dual-credit with area high schools,” Becker said. Programs are already in place with Brownwood and Bangs, and Becker has meetings planned with Early and De Leon.
Becker also experienced his appreciation for the relationship the college has with Howard Payne University.
“These are all technical skills,” he said of the TSTC program. “Howard Payne is doing a great job with academics.”
He also noted that while he’s been in Brownwood, TSTC-West Texas has illustrated its commitment to this community by placing a new level of administration here.
The financial aid director, the associate vice president for nursing education and the student accounting director work in Brownwood, but they oversee functions at all West Texas campuses.
“The home office may be in Sweetwater, but that’s a commitment by TSTC to find the right person for the job, wherever they are,” Becker said.
Becker said the only break he will take between positions is the weekend before he starts work in Sweetwater.
“I’ll be working here until that Friday, and then start there the next Monday,” Becker said. “For me, a vacation is a full weekend.”
SEED has been without an executive director for most of the year, a story in The Sweetwater Reporter said Wednesday.
“I believe (Becker) is the right person for the right position at the right time,” said SEED board president John Jay. “We are not only excited to have Ken coming home to Sweetwater, but we are excited about the future of SEED under his leadership.”
TSTC West Texas President Mike Reeser told the Reporter that Becker “will be sorely missed by TSTC,” and that he had a “huge positive impact on our TSTC location in Brownwood.”
Becker said as the chamber of commerce executive in Sweetwater, he had become acquainted with several key Brownwood officials before he moved here. Now, he feels the contacts he’s made here will be beneficial.
“I told (BEDC executive director) James Campbell he’s going to be on my speed-dial,” Becker said. “He’s been very successful, and SEED is set up exactly like the BEDC.”