GREENFIELD — Skip Kuker, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, will retire at the end of the year, citing health reasons.
Kuker, who has served as the county’s economic development director since 2012, announced his retirement, effective Dec. 31, to the HEDC board on Wednesday morning. The board “reluctantly accepted the news and agreed with Kuker that his personal needs are more important at this time,” the board said in a news release.
Randy Sorrell, an attorney with Fortville-based Sorrell and Hamilton, will take over for Kuker as executive director on Jan. 1, said past HEDC board chair Steve Long.
In the fall of 2013, Kuker, 55, was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, a little more than a year after he’d been appointed executive director. Kuker ceased treatment earlier this year. His battle with cancer has been a public one, and he and his family have repeatedly been embraced by the community with fundraisers and recognition honoring his service.
“It is pretty emotional,” said Kuker, who endured treatments for many months but still insisted on going to work. “I love my job and my community, but with this disease, I have to do what is best for my family, my health and the work we do at the HEDC.”
Kuker’s wife, Ellen, is the director of the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department. They have a daughter, Jordan.
The HEDC board had been expecting a move like this for a while, but that didn’t make hearing the news any easier.
“Skip is the finest economic development director I have known in my career,” said Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health. “He is also one of the most courageous guys I’ve ever met as he has gone through this journey with cancer, and it is with great sadness that we accepted his request to retire.”
Sorrell, 61, lost a re-election bid for the Hancock County Council in the May primary after serving on the council since 2015. Sorrell is also on the HEDC board of directors.
“I think we’re going to be in great hands,” Long said of Sorrell, “but he’s got big shoes to fill because Skip is the best I’ve ever known.”
Kuker was hired by the county in 2012 to replace Dennis Maloy, who was the county’s first full-time development director. He came to Hancock County after nearly eight years as president of the Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation, where he was known for his involvement in the community, high energy and willingness to tackle any problem.
During his nearly seven-year tenure as head of the economic development council here, Kuker has led efforts to bring numerous companies, such as John Morrell Foods, BeijingWest Industries, Landsberg and Foamcraft, to a longer list of new and existing businesses in the county. Kuker has worked on projects bringing in more than $750 million in new investment and 3,600 jobs to Hancock County, according to the news release.
Kuker’s accomplishments earned him many accolades from his peers in the business community and from Hancock County community members.
In 2017, he was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash — the highest honor bestowed upon an Indiana citizen by the governor.
Earlier that same year, the development council announced the creation of the Nolan “Skip” Kuker Award for Community Enrichment, a scholarship fund that will provide $1,000 annually to a county high school student who shows deep community involvement and leadership skills.
In late 2016, the Indiana Economic Development Association presented Kuker with its excellence in leadership award; and the Fortville-McCordsville Chamber of Commerce created a leadership award in his name that will be given annually to a community member who shows Kuker’s passion for economic development.
Kuker said he looks forward to traveling and visiting with family and friends during retirement. But he still has some unfinished business.
“One thing that is sure is that nothing is going to stop the great things going on, and it is best to make sure everything is ready for a seamless transition,” he said. “I will continue to work as long as I can.”
The Daily Reporter’s Caitlin VanOverberghe contributed this report.