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A Year Later, City Still Seeks Economic Leader

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A year after Mayor Dwight C. Jones rolled the city's then-separate departments of Economic Development, Community Development and Real Estate Services into one catch-all — the Department of Economic and Community Development — the new, powerful division lacks a leader.

Duties of the job include attracting developers, enticing businesses to move to Richmond, advising the mayor and crafting long-range plans for commercial growth. The salary is advertised on the city's website between $90,000 and $144,000, and the deadline for applications is listed as continuous.

Mayor Jones hired Vicki Rivers, formerly of Houston, to be director of minority business development in July. Other vacant positions at City Hall include the directorships of public works and public utilities.

Tammy Hawley, the mayor's press secretary, says interviews have taken place for the economic and community development director position.

Peter Chapman, deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development, says the city expects to complete the hiring process “before the end of the year.” Chapman says the position has been advertised since the first quarter of 2010 and that the job is posted on websites for the International Economic Community Development Council and the National Development Council.

The duties of the vacant director of economic and community development have been carried out during the last year by Chapman, hired in June 2009, who previously worked in Denver on housing projects for Seedco, a nonprofit community financing group.

“This is tough work and it takes a level of strategic planning and implementation to create that polished product at the end of the day,” he says.

“This has very much been an active area that has had leadership, because I've been serving in the position as you know,” he adds, stressing city movement on projects such as renovating the Hippodrome in Jackson Ward, crafting a redevelopment plan for Dove Court, retaining area employer Pfizer, planning for Carytown and starting a city loan program using federal Housing and Urban Development Department funding.

There have been 14 economic development directors in the last 15 years. Carthan Currin, the city's last economic development director, was laid off amid the restructuring in September 2009.

“We're not going to act with haste and end up with a repeat of what the city has experienced in the past,” Hawley says.

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