Richmond mayor hires economic development director

Lee Downey
Lee Downey
Eric Tucker
Eric Tucker
Dr. Norman Merrifield
Dr. Norman Merrifield

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – After more than 18 months on the hunt, Mayor Dwight Jones announced today he's hired a Director of Economic Development. It's a job that's-- historically-- been hard to fill and hard to keep filled.

In 15 years, the city has had 14 economic development directors. The administration struggled over the last year and a half to find the right person, who's also the right fit. Tonight, Mayor Jones says he has his man.

Lee Downey comes to Richmond out of near-by Ashland, and says it's good to be home.

"My background, my love, my career, my excitement is economic development and blending the two is a dream come true for me as a career," Downey said.

Former Mayor Doug Wilder's economic development director was forced out shortly after Mayor Dwight Jones took office. The job to promote the river city sat empty for nearly two years.

City Councilman Chris Hilbert worried the job had a reputation, and often asked the mayor publicly, why the job hadn't been filled.

"We're pulling out of the great recession. We're not out of it yet. And economic development is what we should be about as a city right now," Hilbert said.

But, Mayor Jones says he deliberately took his time, waiting for the right fit.

"It also would not of helped us to choose somebody because the gun was at our neck," Jones said. "A lot of times we've named people to economic development because they're a good guy. You know we need somebody who can get the job done."

Downey said the job's history, or taking the position so late into a four year administration didn't make a difference to him.

"No not at all, I'm excited to get started no reservation in that point. Just the opportunity to get in and help Richmond," he said.

Downey starts work May 2nd. The mayor also hired a new Chief of Finance, Eric Tucker and a new Director of Parks and Recreation, Dr. Norman Merrifield.

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