By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Wade Creswell planned a career in healthcare when he enrolled at East Tennessee State University after graduating from Roane County High School. Although he was dissuaded from pursuing a medical degree, he did become a Registered Nurse, working for a number of years in Emergency Rooms in the area.
Today, Creswell is using the assessment skills that he practiced for so many years as a nurse in his new role as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Roane Alliance. The lifetime resident of Kingston succeeded Leslie Henderson as the group’s leader in March.
“I’m pacing myself,” Creswell told us. “I want to learn a lot more before jumping out. I realize this doesn’t all have to get done in a day.”
The Alliance’s new CEO brings a solid knowledge of the county, an engaging personality, and a strong philosophy to the position. It helps that he is a third generation resident with both grandfathers spending careers in the Department of Energy complex – one at the old K-25 site and the other at what was then called X-10. The latter is now referred to as Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“My message is and will be that we are better together than we are apart,” Creswell emphasizes. He understands the historical football rivalries and other types of competition that occur in a county with five municipalities, but adds that the message is “resonating well.”
With his strong focus on regional collaboration, Creswell is carefully assessing the best projects to pursue to demonstrate the value of working together.
“I want to find one or two initiatives that we can grab and people will see their impact,” he explains. “There are so many ways we can work together.”
Creswell praises his predecessor, both for the foundation that he inherited and the transition assistance that she provided.
“Leslie was fantastic that first month,” he said. “She had a plan to bring me up to speed.”
Creswell says the Alliance and its three components – Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Development Board, and Visitors Bureau – were in a strong position when he assumed the CEO position.
“I could never ever imagine doing what I’m doing or loving it as much,” he says of the Alliance position. “I had no plans to leave when Leslie announced her retirement.”
At the time, Creswell was Vice President of Development and Public Relations, Health Services, at Michael Dunn Center, one of Roane County’s largest employers. It was his second tour at the Center, having left once for a job in pharmaceutical sales.
Creswell returned in 2007 to lead a fund raising effort, starting it from scratch.
Yet, when opportunity knocks, you have to give it some thought, and that’s exactly what Creswell did. He asked a few people for their thoughts about throwing his hat into the ring.
“Do it; you’re crazy if you don’t,” he recalls his father telling him. Other reactions were similar.
“I fell in love with the idea,” Creswell said. Now that he has the position, he says the challenge and opportunity are everything he imagined.
“Every hour is so different,” he says. “No day is close to the same. I’m going 90 miles an hour with my hair on fire.”
It’s clearly something he loves and a way to give back to his home county.
For now, he’s still doing the assessment of the patient, but some ideas are emerging. For example, in the case of industrial recruitment, Creswell believes there are opportunities to look at supply chain needs for Roane County’s larger employers.
He plans to pace himself.
“I don’t want to burn myself out or the people around me,” Creswell says.