Macon’s community development director DuBose out

The director of Macon’s Economic and Community Development Department, Kevin DuBose, has resigned.

His last day as director is today, although he said he expects to continue working in an advisory capacity until early March. DuBose, who tendered his resignation Wednesday, said he hopes to stay in Macon and pursue other educational or professional opportunities.

He said given the changes in leadership that have occurred during his tenure — he has served under two mayors and two city councils since starting work in 2005 — now is a good time to leave. DuBose, 39, said Mayor Robert Reichert needs a strong adviser who can help to guide him through the large, looming issues on the horizon, such as city-county consolidation or how to orchestrate the redevelopment of downtown.

“I sort of feel like John the Baptist,” DuBose said. “Maybe I’m the one to bridge the gap, but not to take us there.”

He declined to say specifically whether Reichert had asked him to leave.

“I don’t think it’d be fair to me or anyone else to go there,” he said. “I will say I strongly believe it’s not about any one person. It’s about these great challenges we have.”

Once DuBose expressed an interest in pursuing other options, Reichert said he thought it was appropriate for him to go ahead and step down.

“But no hard feelings,” the mayor said. “No hard feelings at all.”

The mayor praised DuBose for his work in getting affordable housing built in Fort Hill and helping to keep the Beall’s Hill redevelopment project on track when it encountered turbulence in recent years.

DuBose also played a key role in the effort to rebuild intown neighborhoods along the College Hill Corridor, advocated new financing options for development projects and rebuilt and reorganized the leadership staff within his department. And among ECD’s chief responsibilities is administering millions of dollars in federal money that is distributed to cities annually for a wide range of housing projects and community programs.

But Reichert indicated that not everything was going as top city officials wished.

“To be candid, the chief administrative officer has been talking to him about some changes that need to be made in the department and some deficiencies in the department,” the mayor said.

ECD has been cited for the past three years by Macon’s auditor for maintaining a portfolio that recorded incorrect interest rates for home and business loans the department has made.

This has kept the city from determining the actual balance of the funds or making allowance for loan losses or interest earned.

The practices that led to that problem originated nearly 20 years before DuBose began working for the city, but as recently as this week officials have expressed frustration that it was not fixed once auditors pointed it out.

“Whether it had anything to do with his decision (to leave) or not, I don’t know,” Reichert said.

Councilman Erick Erickson earlier this week had complained rather vocally during a meeting that Reichert has been too lenient on department heads. After three years of audit findings in ECD, he said Thursday, this was an instance where a correction needed to be made.

Erickson spoke highly of DuBose’s vision and forward thinking and said DuBose offered council members many strong ideas that they would not have otherwise thought about. But in the end, day-to-day management issues seemed to overwhelm DuBose, he said, and at some point it becomes too late to blame problems on bad practices committed by predecessors.

“I like Kevin, but I’m glad to see that the mayor is starting to hold department heads accountable for issues,” Erickson said. “I hope that the departments realize that the mayor and council mean business.”

DuBose did not dispute any part of the mayor’s account and said he remains a steadfast supporter of Reichert’s vision for the city.

He said he also thinks he accomplished what he set out to do when he came to Macon from Knoxville, Tenn. — serve with honor and competence. And he pointed out that his record has never been blemished by scandal.

“That’s the thing I’m most proud of,” DuBose said.

DuBose was in charge of community development programs for the city of Knoxville, and he had worked as a planner in Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs prior to coming to Macon.

Former Mayor Jack Ellis hired him when the previous ECD director, Chester Wheeler, stepped down in 2005 after serving 15 years in the position. Around the time Wheeler left, The Telegraph published a lengthy article noting that for the seven preceding years a Macon contractor had been the sole beneficiary of federal funds that ECD distributes for construction of affordable housing.

After DuBose departs, Wanzina Jackson, the department’s assistant director, will lead ECD on an interim basis, Reichert said. Macon will try to hire a permanent replacement as soon as possible, the mayor said.

One of the upcoming projects that ECD has taken the lead on is management of a more than $4 million neighborhood stabilization grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Reichert said it’s crucial to have someone in place as that money is disbursed in the coming months.

Councilman Larry Schlesinger, whose Community Resources and Development Committee oversees ECD, said he is sorry to see DuBose leave.

“I am really going to miss his vision and leadership, which I think has really set the course for us over the next decade or so,” Schlesinger said.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.