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Decision delayed on status of Manchester's economic development office

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 16. 2013 10:29PM

MANCHESTER — An aldermanic committee on Tuesday delayed making any recommendation whether the city’s economic development office should be its own department or a division of the mayor’s office.

But before the joint Administration/Human Resources Committee of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 4-2 to table the discussion, some aldermen gave hints that they were ready to reverse the board’s decision, made less than two months ago, to place economic development under the auspices of Mayor Ted Gatsas.

“I can honestly say I’ve changed my mind,” Alderman-At-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur said after identifying himself as someone who had advocated consolidating the economic development position “since 1999” and “finally got my wish.”

The existing model makes economic development a division of the mayor’s office, with two positions, an economic development coordinator and a marketing and retention specialist.

“I have determined that it is not in the best interest of the city based on what I’ve seen in the last couple of months,” he said of having the position under the Mayor’s Office. “I would be for returning it to a department head status.”

Waiting for audit

The committee tabled the matter, though, after Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy said he wanted to wait until aldermen receive an audit of the now-defunct Manchester Economic Development Office, which Gatsas has said should be delivered by the next aldermen’s meeting. Roy said he wanted the information even though it examines only recent years.

“I’d like to see that audit. I don’t care if it doesn’t go back to when Hector was a pup,” Roy said.

The proposal to make economic development its own department was brought to the committee by Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, who also proposed bringing economic development under the Mayor’s Office. Long has said he wanted to reverse course given that economic development staff would be hired and fired by the mayor and thus subject to the inherit politics of the Mayor’s Office and possibly compromising longevity among staff.Gatsas did not attend the meeting, but Ward 12 Alderman and mayoral candidate Patrick Arnold did.

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