When Felecia Herndon left her post at the Tyler Economic Development Council nearly two decades ago, she never thought she would one day return.

Staying in touch throughout the years with TEDC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Mullins, Ms. Herndon said he has been a mentor, giving her advice in other job situations she found herself in and updating her on his projects.

As she moved positions throughout her career, each one carried a little more responsibility and required a little more of her. She believes they prepared her to become vice president of finance for TEDC.

"It was an opportunity that pretty much came out of the blue," Ms. Herndon said of returning to work for Mullins. She is taking the place of Phyllis Schneider, who recently retired after working for TEDC for 25 years.

Ms. Herndon, 51, of Troup, recalls working with Ms. Schneider when she worked there 18 years ago and said she left "really big shoes to fill." Mrs. Schneider did a great job creating and maintaining incentives offered to businesses by TEDC to move to and/or grow here, she said. She learned a lot from her years ago and is learning from her again while Mrs. Schneider trains her to take over her position.

"I'm looking forward to wrapping my head around all of this and have it become second nature like it was for Phyllis all those years," she said, adding that it is a lot of information to learn.

As vice president of finance, Ms. Herndon said she is the chief financial officer for TEDC, and that comes with a great deal of responsibility. They create and manage incentives focusing on primary employers and the retention and expansion of existing businesses, as well as attracting new companies. She sees bringing in new jobs and dollars to the areas as a big responsibility.

She said if they grow or attract businesses in the area, it brings more awareness to Tyler and creates a better quality of life. When a community has good jobs and school systems, people want to move and live there, she added.

Ms. Herndon has worked for years in education and human resources. Whether she was working with students or employees, it was all about opportunity and access, she said.

After graduating from Troup High School and attending Tyler Commercial College, she worked as a secretary in the president's office at Jarvis Christian College. She worked in accounting at UT Health Northeast before moving to Houston to work in the education office at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

In 1992, she returned to Tyler and worked as Mullin's executive assistant for five years. She became certified as an economic development finance professional and attended the Community Development Institute. While working for TEDC, Ms. Herndon earned a bachelor's degree in business management and a master's degree in business administration from LeTourneau University.

She worked for LaGloria Oil & Gas, now Delek Refining, as a human resources generalist and for the former Zimmerman Sign Co. as the director of human resources. She left there in 2002 to run the F&M Convenience store in Overton that she and her now ex-husband acquired.

Later that year, Ms. Herndon went to work for Texas College as director of Career Services and returned to Jarvis Christian College, where she worked as director of the Community & Resource Department, then director of Recruitment and Admissions Department. In 2010, she started working as director of Student Services at Westwood College, a career school in Dallas, and returned to Troup when it closed in 2012. She worked for Vista College, a career school in Longview, as associate director of education and director of education, until Mullins recruited her to return to TEDC.

While working at Texas College, she served on the Whitehouse Initiative for Cooperative Education task force, working with large companies to provide internships to minority students. While at Jarvis Christian College, she was a member of the Building Education and Attainment for Minority Students team, a program funded by the Lumina Education Foundation. The program, which existed for about three years, worked with historically black colleges around the country to provide equal opportunities and access to education, even beyond college.

Ms. Herndon also is a graduate of Leadership Tyler and participated in Leadership Texas. In her off time, she races Standardbred Pacer horses in East Texas, Houston, Dallas and Louisiana, she said. She also is working on her doctorate in higher education and adult learning from Walden University.

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