Dover Downtown Partnership to begin search for director

DOVER — The Downtown Dover Partnership is scrambling to find a new executive director in lieu of what appears to be the imminent end of the city’s Economic Development Office.

Council will vote on the final adoption of its proposed 2017 fiscal year budget at City Hall Monday night.

That budget includes the elimination of the Economic Development Office and three full-time positions held by William Neaton, Ed Perez and Beverly Jackson.

The decision will also affect the partnership since the city’s development office had worked hand-in-hand with it in the past.

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Scott Koenig

“As we went through the budget discussions there were a number of issues that the council addressed,” said City Manager Scott Koenig. “The discussion related to economic development led to a series of motions that directly affect both the partnership and the economic development staff.

“The first reading (of the proposed budget) occurred (June 13) and the final reading occurs on the 27th of June and the new budget will go into effect on July 1. That’s where the city budget stands. I expect it will go through.”

Partnership President Gregory Moore said it has to be prepared for anything at its board of directors meeting at the Dover Public Library on Wednesday morning.

“Most of this has happened within the last two weeks so there has not been much time,” Mr. Moore said. “In reaction to that, I ended up appointing Diane (Laird), Todd (Stonesifer), Anne Marie (Townshend) and myself to a committee to begin a search for a new executive director in case the city does go ahead and votes this on Monday.”

Mr. Neaton, who said he isn’t interested in applying for the new executive director position, had served as the Downtown Dover Partnership’s executive director since October 2008. Mr. Perez and Ms. Jackson also served on the partnership’s staff.

The partnership was formed in July 2008 when the Downtown Dover Development Corp., Main Street Dover and the Dover Parking Authority merged. The partnership has a board of directors and five committees (design, promotion, organization, parking and safety and economic restructuring) composed of volunteers from the community.

Board member Diane Laird said the partnership is currently advertising for the executive director role and has a deadline of July 9 to accept applications. The board anticipates interviewing candidates from mid- to late-July.

Last month, council voted 8-1 in a budget hearing on a proposal to eliminate the Economic Development Office and to defer funds to the Downtown Dover Partnership.

Councilman David Anderson cast the lone dissenting vote. He’s still not pleased with the decision.

“I’m very concerned,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I didn’t think this was the way you do anything — with no plan, no transition. It’s just not the way it should be done in my opinion, but my opinion happens to be a minority one.”

From there, council voted 6-2 to form a new Economic Development Advisory Committee that would be appointed to take the Economic Development Offices’ place, which would be chaired by Mayor Robin Christiansen.

Council also voted to increase the appropriation to the partnership from a proposed $70,000 to $150,000 with specific instructions that it is responsible for paying staffing costs from those funds.

Mr. Moore said he is not sure if the partnership will hire just an executive director or if there could also be other positions.

“Our strategy is we may hire an administrative person after we hire the executive director,” he said. “We want the executive director to be a part of that second selection. We’re unsure of what qualifications our executive director will have.

“It’s possible that we can do this on one staff, but it’s also possible that we don’t. If that person can do lots of different things as well as manage, then it’s possible that we can get away with one. If that person can’t, then we’ll need an administrative person. So we’re going to put that decision off.”

Mr. Neaton and Ms. Jackson could be utilized by the partnership in the interim of its hiring an executive director.

Mr. Moore said he was pleased with how Mr. Neaton, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Perez have performed despite the uncertainty over the past several weeks.

“If you’ve never been through this you can’t understand how hard it is,” he said. “They’re putting the business of DDP and downtown ahead of their own personal issues. I just want to thank [them] for maintaining that consummate professionalism and just working with downtown and having a good demeanor.”

As for now, Mr. Moore said for the partnership needs to be prepared for anything.

“I made the decision that we had [post an advertisement for an executive director] in advance of an actual action by the city because of timing,” he said. “We’re probably going to have a period of time where we don’t have an executive director or a staff if the decision goes ahead on Monday and we’ll just try to minimize that by proceeding to do an advertisement now.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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