CANTON — Two months after the Canton City Council voted to create the dual position of economic development coordinator and main street coordinator, the city has hired a recent college graduate to take on the job.
Matthew Thomas is a former private piano instructor who graduated from the University of West Georgia in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
He said he stepped into his new role as economic development coordinator and main street coordinator last Monday at 23 years old.
But City Manager Scott Wood said Wednesday that Thomas’s age shouldn’t be held against him.
“We interviewed eight applicants who were virtually all older than Matthew,” Wood said. “But we’ve all been young, we’ve all needed a break, and we’ve all needed a good start. And I feel like whatever he lacks in years of experience, he will more than compensate for in his work ethic.”
Thomas said Wednesday that he’s happy for the opportunity.
Prior to coming on to Canton’s staff, Thomas said he worked and had internships in economic development in Dalton, Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn.
Thomas said he got his first experience in economic development during internships in 2010, and the “bug” bit him quickly.
Since starting work in Canton last week, he said he’s spent time getting to know the city, its staff and officials.
Thomas, a native of Dalton, said before his interview process with Wood, he’d been to Canton only once.
He said he was relying on an outdated navigation system driving from Atlanta to Dalton once when he lost his way and ended up in Canton.
“The GPS took me through a bunch of back roads and ended up getting lost,” he said. “But I made a stop at a McDonald’s and asked where I was. This lady said ‘Sir, you’re in Canton.’”
But now, Thomas said he isn’t lost and is “thrilled” to be with the city.
In the near future, Thomas hopes to begin looking at plans to help the city grow, but exactly what those plans will be is up to what the public wants, he said.
Thomas said he is working to form good relationships with Canton residents, officials and business leaders.
“Not just with economic development, but with business, relationships are key,” he said. “One way the city of Canton will move forward will be through a cooperative effort. I think we all need to be singing from the same hymn book.”
Thomas said he thinks the city has room to grow.
“Canton is in a wonderful place right now,” he said. “With so much future development and plans in place, this city’s bound to take off soon.”
Thomas’s position was approved by the Canton City Council in March, along with a separate position for a marketing and special event coordinator.
The City Council later approved a budget amendment for $190,000 annually for all of the positions, but Wood said Wednesday that the two jobs will come in less than $190,000 a year, with the two getting about $90,000 between them a year. This amount is before benefits, which will add about 27 percent, Wood said.