Kelly Robertson-Slagle was born and raised in Charles County and is happy to be leading the County’s Economic Development Department (EDD) as its new Director. Coming from a family of small business owners, she understands the responsibility and associated stress that come with owning and managing a business. And, with 25 years of economic development experience, she’s poised to offer her skills to the community she and her family are already invested in.
“I did grow up here as did my parents and my grandparents,” said Robertson-Slagle, “so I appreciate the history of this county. At the same time, I appreciate where the county is going. I do know the way it was, but at the same time I can appreciate the progress we’re making and the industry and services we’re bringing, as well as the new development. I hope to strike a balance between the two.”
Robertson-Slagle attended high school locally and developed a passion for business, leadership, and entrepreneurship at a very young age. She attended the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) and then the University of Maryland, College Park, which included a capstone internship with a local defense contractor in St. Mary’s County. She said, “It provided me with a solid introduction to the defense, technology, and contracting community.”
Introduction to Economic Development
While at CSM, she had an opportunity to apply for a position with what was then called the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (now the Maryland Department of Commerce.) “Our office was right next to Charles County Economic Development. I met Marcia [Keeth] there for the first time! That was nearly 25 years ago.” (Keeth is the EDD Deputy Director.)
About economic development, she said, “It just clicked for me. I truly started from the ground up, in an administrative position, and I had a chance to interact with businesses, but also was very fortunate to have some skilled senior economic developers who took me under their wing and mentored me throughout my career.” She was actively involved with the local business response during natural disasters, including the 2002 tornado that struck the Town of La Plata and Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003. “Those experiences showed me why we’re here and why economic development is so valuable to the local community,” she said. “For the business community, we are the front line; we are the first responders when things like that happen.” That kind of experience was useful when COVID hit.
First Impressions and Goals
Robertson-Slagle mentioned a lot of exciting projects and initiatives currently underway and even more that are in the pipeline. Her background is in business retention, which is working with existing business and industry. Meeting with them one-on-one, building a rapport, finding where the EDD can assist businesses, and connecting them with valuable resources so that they can be healthy and grow in Charles County are among her main goals.
Making connections is a key part of her strategy. “Economic Development is a team sport,” she said. “You have to have all the appropriate players and resources to be successful. You can’t do it alone.” She’s spending her first weeks conducting interviews with EDD staff, connecting with the County’s top 10 employers, reaching out to business resource partners, and meeting with Charles County Government department heads. “I want economic development to be thought of as a partner as we move forward,” she added, and reported that it is going really well so far.
She describes herself as having an “open door” philosophy and is already making plans to get out into the community and hear businesses’ stories, which will help guide strategic decisions. “I’ve been invested in the community for a long time personally,” she said. “My husband, Jeff and I raised our children here. We volunteer here and are big supporters of local nonprofits. So, when the opportunity presented itself, and the timing was right for me to give something back to the county professionally, I jumped at the chance.”