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Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison Moving To New Role At Marshall University

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In a significant development for the tri-state region, Brandon Dennison, the CEO of Coalfield Development, has announced his transition to a strategic/visionary role within the organization. Alongside this change, Dennison will also assume the role of Vice President of Economic Development and Workforce Development at Marshall University, a prominent academic institution. The appointment positions Dennison at the cabinet level within the university, working closely with President Brad D. Smith, a visionary leader in his own right.

Notably, Dennison will continue to serve as CEO and Executive President of Coalfield Development until the end of the year, ensuring a smooth transition period between the two organizations. In the coming months, Dennison and the Board of Directors will commence the search for a new CEO to lead Coalfield Development. Once selected, the new CEO will work in tandem with Dennison, adopting a co-pilot approach to guide the organization. While the CEO focuses on day-to-day leadership and stakeholder relationships, Dennison will assume responsibility for strategic direction and vision. Fundraising efforts will be divided between the two leaders, adopting a model similar to the CEO/Executive Chair structure commonly seen in for-profit enterprises. This approach is believed to facilitate a patient and effective succession process.

Undoubtedly, this marks a significant change for Dennison and the organizations he has been instrumental in leading. However, it is crucial to emphasize that his formal involvement with Coalfield Development will persist for many more years. With a deep-rooted connection to the organization, Dennison remains committed to dedicating his utmost efforts, even as his focus shifts during this transition. Additionally, the alignment of his responsibilities at Marshall University with Coalfield’s vision and mission further reinforces his continued commitment to the organization. Both entities share a strategic alignment centered around fostering a new Appalachian economy, as evident in their formal articulation agreement.

While Dennison founded Coalfield Development and has been deeply invested in its work, he has always viewed the organization as larger than himself. Failure to dissociate Coalfield Development solely from his name would contradict his aspiration to be a servant leader. The organization’s robust team, having established effective systems and strong collaborative frameworks, ensures that this transition is not merely a challenge to be mitigated, but an opportunity to bolster the organization’s resilience.

Marshall University President Brad Smith’s recognition of Coalfield Development as a key strategic partner underscores the significance of this transition. As part of Dennison’s new role at Marshall, he will continue to provide strategic leadership and support to Coalfield Development. This includes the critical task of selecting and training the future CEO, ensuring a smooth and effective succession process. In addition to his responsibilities with Coalfield, Dennison will oversee various initiatives at Marshall, such as The Advanced Manufacturing Center (formerly RCBI), Sustainability, Brownfields Assistance Center, and the Alliance for the Economic Development of Southern West Virginia. He will also actively participate in teams dedicated to the development of micro-credentialing programs, business growth, and regional economic strategies. These areas align with Dennison’s longstanding interests and passions throughout his career.

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In closing, it is essential to highlight the perspectives of Coalfield Development’s Board President, Kenzie New Walker, and Board Treasurer, Ric MacDowell. Their sentiments reflect the organization’s strength and anticipation for the future. Walker remarked, “The transition is a signal that Coalfield Development is strong and ready.” She expressed excitement and gratitude toward Brandon Dennison, acknowledging his visionary leadership over the past 14 years and the organization’s robust board. MacDowell echoed Walker’s sentiments, stating that Dennison’s new position at Marshall University would invigorate and strengthen Coalfield Development’s mission for the region. He firmly believes that Dennison’s role at the university is not only a fitting step for the leader himself but also serves the best interests of the region they serve.

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Politics

Gov. Justice Appoints Jeffrey Stephens to fill Sixth District seat in House of Delegates

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Jeffrey Stephens

CHARLESTON, WV — Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday he has appointed Jeffrey R. Stephens to the West Virginia House of Delegates Sixth District, which serves Marshall County. Stephens replaces Charlie Reynolds, who resigned earlier this month.

A John Marshall High School and West Liberty University graduate, Stephens is an educator with the Marshall County Schools system, teaching West Virginia Studies and serving as the athletic director at Sherrard Middle School.

Stephens also has coaching experience, having been the assistant girls’ basketball coach at John Marshall from 2010 to 2014, Sherrard girls basketball coach from 2014 to 2022, and Sherrard football coach from 2010 to 2022.

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Huntington Mayor Williams Files Pre-Candidacy for Governor

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City of Huntington

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams took another step Thursday in his announced plan to run for governor by filing his pre-candidacy papers with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.

Williams is the only Democrat in that race so far. Cecil Silva of the Lincoln County community of Spurlockville filed pre-candidacy papers in April, but the secretary of state’s office lists his candidacy as terminated. The secretary of state’s website lists eight Republican candidates for governor; one each from the Libertarian, Mountain and Constitution parties; and one with no affiliation.

In his filing announcement, Williams pointed to his “diverse background spanning finance, service in the West Virginia Legislature, and three successful terms as Huntington’s Mayor.”

“I’m running for Governor because I believe the best of West Virginia is yet to come,” he said. “From revitalizing Huntington’s economy to combating the opioid crisis with innovative solutions, my track record speaks for itself.”

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More here: Williams files pre-candidacy papers to run for WV governor | News | herald-dispatch.com

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Business News

Coalfield Development Selects Jacob Hannah as New CEO

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Last week, Coalfield Development Corporation’s Board of Directors unanimously approved Jacob Hannah, current Chief Conservation Officer, to be the next Chief Executive Officer of the West Virginia-based nonprofit. Hannah will assume the position effective January 1, 2024.

The October 17th vote occurred after a month’s long search process involving more than 40 applicants for the position.

“I am incredibly honored and excited for this opportunity to continue to serve Appalachia in this dynamic and transformative role. And through the innovative succession model that Brandon Dennison has thoughtfully established for this role transition, I heartily believe that our organization is stepping into a new phase that will empower the momentum for a truly just transition,” Hannah said.

Hannah replaces Coalfield’s founder and current CEO, Brandon Dennison, who was named Vice President of Economic Development at Marshall University in July of this year. Dennison will continue supporting Coalfield Development as Executive President. In this new role, Dennison will help shape strategy, partnerships, and fundraising. Coalfield’s new leadership model resembles the CEO/Executive Chair model more prominent in for-profits.

“This is an important milestone for Coalfield Development. I am genuinely excited for the organization, and I have complete confidence in Jacob as the new CEO. He is going to lead this organization to achieve greater impact than ever before, but he’ll do it with integrity, compassion, and creativity,” Dennison said.

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Dennison added, “Jacob is the right leader at the right time for our region. He has lived the mission of Coalfield Development, growing up in a coal mining family. Since joining us in 2018 Jacob has served multiple leadership roles within the organization, standing up entirely new programs and supervising more than 25 employees. And Jacob has been instrumental in the ACT Now Coalition, which recently brought $100 million of new investment to southern West Virginia.”

Coalfield Development Board of Directors President Kenzie New Walker applauded the diligent efforts of the board’s search committee.

“I want to commend our search committee for shepherding such a strong hiring process. This committee was diligent and persistent in running a thorough search which connected our organization with high caliber candidates. Jacob rose to the top of this competitive group, and we’re we appreciate all the applicants who applied,” she said.  

Hannah has been an employee of Coalfield Development for five years. He previously held the role of Chief Conservation Officer.

“I come from three generations of coal mining in my family, and I am a 5th generation West Virginian. My leadership style is to integrate an empathetic and grounded approach to the strategy of triple-bottom line sustainability; balancing People, Planet, and Prosperity in harmony with each other with a lens towards a fair and just transition.

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Hannah’s work intersects the throughline of environmental considerations with social wellbeing and economic development.

“This is truly an exciting time to be at Coalfield Development and the work we are doing to better the lives of our Appalachian communities,” he said.

About Coalfield Development: Coalfield Development is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization headquartered in Huntington, West Virginia focusing on rebuilding the Appalachian economy through social enterprise creation, job training, and community-based real-estate development.

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