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Baker plans to leave Stark Development Corp. in December

The executive vice president of Stark Development Corp. will step down at the end of the year after 21 years of service. Gaylon Baker said at a meeting with the corporation's executive committee Wednesday morning that he will keep working until t...

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The Stark Development Corp.'s Executive Committee met Wednesday morning to discuss Executive Vice President Gaylon Baker's retirement at the end of the year. From left to right: Treasurer Dan Kovash, Vice President Ryan Jilek, President T.J. Herauf and Baker. (Ellie Potter / The Dickinson Press)

The executive vice president of Stark Development Corp. will step down at the end of the year after 21 years of service.

Gaylon Baker said at a meeting with the corporation’s executive committee Wednesday morning that he will keep working until the end of December. The committee plans to begin advertising the position in the coming weeks with hopes of filling it before the New Year.

“We’re very sad to be losing somebody like Gaylon.” said T.J. Herauf, president of the group’s board of directors. “His expertise and the way he communicates with businesses from Fortune 500 companies to one-person operations is extraordinary. He does a wonderful job of putting Dickinson first, and he’s frugal in his negotiations.”

Baker took a pay cut moving to Dickinson from Duluth, Minn., in November of 1995. He was awarded the economic developer of the year for North Dakota once during his tenure, he said.

The city has changed considerably in his more than two decades in Dickinson.

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“The amount of investment and development that’s taken place in those 21 years are amazing,” he said. “People barely recognize Dickinson when they come back after being gone for that period of time.”

The city had been growing steadily even before the oil boom, he said. People’s homes were worth a little more each year, the amount of jobs was increasing and the tax base was solid.

“A lot of the work in economic development is setting the right stage so that things happen, and sometimes you play a role just in brushing with the right shoulders, being acquainted with the right people, being top of mind with certain people and organizations.”

The city’s economic development also fostered a more diverse culture, he said.

“I really think that we’ve grown as a community in so many ways, not just in numbers but in our acceptance of people and our ability to honor diversity and to be more in sync with the advancing culture of our nation,” he said.

Baker plans to help transition his successor into the role introducing him or her to members of boards around the state to ensure Dickinson still has a strong presence when the boards begin making decisions, particularly relating to energy matters. He made an extra effort to attend meetings of boards he was not a part of to ensure Dickinson’s interests were considered.

“You don’t want to just drop that ball and walk away,” Baker said. “I’m very concerned that any kind of transition that needs to take place is a smooth and successful transition … because I really feel that, often times, when I am in those rooms with a different board of directors or a different organization that it’s my job to make sure that our interests are protected and realized, and people know that we are going to be a player.”

After retiring from the board, Baker is not sure what he will do with his free time, though his hobbies such as antique car collecting, tinkering in the garage and hunting should keep him occupied, he said.

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Herauf said he is not worried about finding Baker’s successor, noting how attractive of a community Dickinson has become. He said the committee doesn’t have any particular person in mind.

Ultimately, Herauf is not worried about the transition, though he said he’ll miss Baker’s expertise.   

“Gaylon has invested 21 years of his life in this community,” Herauf said. “He wants to make sure that it is left in very good hands as well, and that’s the kind of guy Gaylon is.”

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