Economic Development finalists visit Tacoma for final vetting

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City of Tacoma is inching closer to hiring its next community and economic development director.

Recruitment for the position opened on March 8 and the City accepted applications through April 2. A handful of applications were received from across the U.S. A panel of subject matter experts recommended nine candidates to participate in video interviews and those were narrowed down to four finalists.

On Monday, April 30, the four finalists were invited to Tacoma for formal interviews. All day Monday the four were toured around the city. Monday evening they were part of a public forum held at The Evergreen State College campus on 6th Avenue. Dignitaries representing various facets of economic development in Tacoma attended, as well as city staff and other people from the community interested in learning about the four finalists vying for the job.

The four finalists are Chris Green, currently the assistant director of the Washington State Department of Commerce; Lance Randall, currently the director of economic development at Southeast Effective Development in Seattle; Betty Capestany, the current president and chief executive officer of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce; and finally, Kurt Creager, currently the president of Urbanist Housing Solutions LLC, in Vancouver, Wash.

Green brings a state-level perspective as the assistant director of the Department of Commerce since 2015. He also has legislative experience, having served as a senior legislative aide for then-state Senator Derek Kilmer from 2005-2007. Subsequent experience includes work as the vice president of Thompson Consulting Group from 2007-2008 and from 2008-2016 as vice president on the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

“This market is one of the last, great beautiful markets on the West Coast,” said Green about Tacoma. “Looking at what we can create here, it’s exciting to think about the opportunities here.”

Randall’s experiences include work as City of Seattle’s business services manager in its Office of Economic Development from 2007-2015, as well as stints serving on economic development commissions and in chambers of commerce. On Monday night, he touted his 23 years of experience practicing economic development.

“This is a great opportunity to take all the experience I’ve had and apply it to Tacoma,” said Randall.

Capestany has had extensive experience working at chambers and in economic development at the city level in East King County. Since 2001, she has served as Bellevue chamber’s president and CEO. Prior to that, she served as director of economic development, neighborhoods and strategic planning for City of Renton from 1997-2001, and before that as president and CEO of the Greater Renton Chamber of Commerce from 1992-1997.

“The part I love the most is working with community and community building,” Capestany said. “I think Tacoma has been overlooked in the region.”

Finally, Creager brings to the table a rich experience in the development and championing of affordable housing. His experience includes serving as executive director of Arizona State University Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family from 2008-2012, and director of Portland Housing Bureau in City of Portland from 2015-2017.

Creager called the open economic development position as the best economic development job in the Western United States.

“The combination of housing and economic development is what appeals to me,” Creager said. “My focus is on affordable housing development.”

On Tuesday, the four finalists endured a very busy morning from 7:30-11:30 a.m. that consisted of them answering questions from a stakeholder panel; community and economic department panel; executive leadership panel; and making formal presentations to the economic development committee. Following that, the individual finalists had one-on-one interactions with various city department directors.

City Manager Elizabeth Pauli said the City is seeking a candidate to fill the position who is focused on economic development with particular emphasis on development of affordable housing within the city. Pauli said she hopes to make a selection very soon. The candidate selected will then go before City Council for confirmation. A start date is expected for the first part of June.

Pauli said economic development and affordable housing are two pieces the City needs to be moving on quickly. She wants the next director to hit the ground running on these two areas.

“I think we have a great pool of candidates,” said Pauli. “They offer a real good background of experiences.”

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