The Butte Local Development Corporation announced Tuesday that Joe Willauer will become its next executive director, filling a spot that’s been vacant since Pam Haxby-Cote left in March to become Montana’s commerce chief.

Willauer was most recently executive director of Headwaters RC&D, a nonprofit organization based in Butte that works to improve the economic and social well-being of a seven-county region in southwest Montana.

The BLDC in a news release said its board of directors has full confidence that Willauer will continue to be an excellent steward of the organization’s mission and be a “passionate leader for the Butte community.”

The BLDC is Butte’s leading economic development organization, working to recruit regional or out-of-state businesses, get existing ones to expand and partnering with others to create jobs.

Before he became executive director of Headwaters, Willauer led its Food and Agriculture Development Center, which provides businesses with services and technical resources to boost agriculture products, energy efficiency and alternative energies.

Willauer also founded Butte Young Professionals, a volunteer organization with a mission of supporting and recruiting young professionals to Butte.

“Joe has an excellent background in economic development and is very well respected among his peers across the state of Montana,” said Ray Rogers, president of the BLDC’s board.

Haxby-Cote became BLDC's director in August 2015, leaving last March when Gov. Steve Bullock appointed her to lead the Montana Department of Commerce.

In the ensuing weeks and months, the BLDC conducted a national search for a replacement and looked at 20 applicants, about a third from the Butte area, said Cooper Fisher, the BLDC's marketing director.

After phone interviews with 10 candidates, the list was narrowed to four, but one dropped out, he said. The other three spent a day in Butte, interviewing for the job, visiting sites and meeting people. Of the other two finalists, one was from New Mexico and one from Maryland, Fisher said.

Willauer will start Sept. 5. Phone messages were left for him at a number given by the BLDC.

According to Willauer's Linked in post, he has been head fly fishing guide at The Stonefly Inn, near Twin Bridges, since June 2008, and guided professionally over 150 days a year on many rivers throughout the state of Montana.

He holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning from Eastern Washington University, Cheney, and a bachelor's degree in geography from Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

Since June 2014, he has served on Gov. Steve Bullock's Future Fisheries Review Panel which selects projects to fund that support public fishing. The panel oversees the distribution of over $500,000 in grant funding for fisheries projects.

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Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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