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Terri Hamilton Brown replaces Tessa Jackson
Less than a week after Tessa Jackson left her post as Cleveland’s economic development director, Mayor Justin Bibb has found a replacement — at least temporarily. This morning, Bibb named Terri Hamilton Brown as the city’s interim director of economic development. She was sworn in and began work today following the departure of Tessa Jackson on June 15. The city expects to open the application process for the permanent position later this week.
Bibb reportedly fired Jackson after a difference of opinion regarding the awarding of city incentives to development projects. When NEOtrans asked the city’s Press Secretary Marie Zickefoose regarding a rumored situation that could have led to her firing, she disputed only the rumored situation, not the assertion that Jackson was fired. The rumor surrounded proposed hiring requirements on contractors working on publicly funded construction projects. However, a more likely reason was Jackson’s desire to reduce public incentives for development projects which caused a lot of pushback from the business community.
One thing is certain, Bibb wanted to get a replacement into the job quickly, even on an interim basis because of the amount of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that needs to get distributed to waterfront projects, neighborhood revitalization efforts and more. Some high-profile projects include the North Coast Connector, Irishtown Bend Park, Bedrock redevelopment infrastructure work and lakefront trails.
As economic development director, Brown will be responsible for continuing the implementation of other ARPA-funded initiatives including the Site Readiness for Good Jobs Fund, revitalizing the southeast side, and minority contractor business assistance. She will also be focused on supporting the city’s efforts to revamp economic development incentives, helping small businesses grow, increasing traded sector jobs and equitable neighborhood development.
“We are pleased to have Terri in this important role and look forward to working with her to advance our economic development goals,” Bibb said in a written statement. “Terri is an inspirational leader and a seasoned veteran who I believe will take this team to the next level.”
A Cleveland native, Brown holds a BA in economics from University of Chicago and a master’s degree in city planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served as director of community development for Mayor Mike White, where she helped build more than 2,500 homes in Cleveland and played a major part in the development of the Church Square shops-and-housing complex near the Cleveland Clinic and Mill Creek on the city’s southeast side.
She went on to serve as executive director of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and is credited with transforming the 1,000-plus-employee organization, dramatically improving its national ratings and achieving near-perfect audits, Bibb administration officials said. Prior to her arrival, CMHA had gone through a number of corruption scandals. However, Brown recommended George Phillips-Olivier in 2000 to join CMHA and took over for her in 2004. In 2012, Phillips-Olivier was sentenced to 10 months in prison for lying to FBI agents in a wide-ranging Cuyahoga County corruption scandal but was acquitted of more serious charges including bribery.
Brown ran for Cuyahoga County executive in 2010 when that position and the county council were new. She lost to Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald. Those and other reforms resulted from the county-wide corruption probe that put dozens of people in prison including Commissioner Jimmy Dimora who will remain behind bars until 2031 and Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo who died last year after being released for health reasons from a 22-year term in prison.
In 2003, Brown became president of University Circle, Inc., where she worked to advance the Opportunity Corridor, expand community and educational use of Wade Oval, and promote University Circle’s many cultural organizations. She went on to become a vice president for diversity at National City Bank (now PNC), ran for Cuyahoga County Executive in 2010, and was named Midwest regional director for The Community Builders, Inc., a leading nonprofit developer of mixed-income housing in 2011. She has worked in that position ever since.