An agency tasked with revitalizing blighted areas in Baton Rouge has offered its chief executive officer job to Chris Tyson, an LSU Law Center professor who was coordinator of the mayor's transition team.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority voted Thursday to offer the position to Tyson on Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's recommendation. The agency, which Broome has promised $500,000 to give it stable funding, will begin negotiating Tyson's takeover of the CEO position in January at $155,000 in annual pay.
Tyson, 42, has taught at the law center since 2010, focusing on property, real estate development, local government law, and urban land use and development. The Baton Rouge native earned a bachelor’s in architecture from Howard University, a master’s in public policy from Harvard and a law degree from Georgetown University.
Tyson unsuccessfully ran for Secretary of State in 2015 as a Democrat and served as coordinator of Broome's transition team.
Broome recommended Tyson for the CEO post two months ago, said John Noland, chairman of the RDA's board of commissioners.
“We have a person with whom I am extremely excited to join in this quest of trying to build a redeveloped Baton Rouge,” Noland said. “I view this as a bright day indeed.”
Tyson said the organization wants to eliminate blight, repair homes and oversee construction of infill developments.
“It’s an exciting time for Baton Rouge,” he said. “We know the challenges we face and the statistics and the rankings. The question is what role does socially equitable and ecologically sustainable development play in turning around those fortunes.”
The RDA said it will pay Tyson a salary commensurate to what he is making at LSU. According to Noland, LSU is paying Tyson $142,000 a year “plus some soft money;" the RDA will offer him $155,000.
The organization has been without a full-time executive director for three years, when Walter Monsour stepped down. Gwen Hamilton has served as interim CEO since November 2014, with an annual salary of $75,000.
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Monsour was making $265,000 annually, with a $100,000 benefits package. That salary drew criticism, especially after Monsour announced the RDA was on track to run out of money and publicly asked the Metro Council for $3 million in annual funding.
Since then, the RDA has existed as a stripped-down organization of just Hamilton and Tara Titone, who serves as the agency’s director, while the organization tried to secure a permanent source of funding. Broome has said the organization will receive $500,000 in funding in the 2018 budget.
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Broome also backed a change that put the RDA in charge of Community Development Block Grant funds that had been previously overseen by the city-parish Office of Community Development.
James Llorens, a member of the RDA board, thanked Hamilton for stepping in at a difficult time and keeping the organization running when the prospects for funding were uncertain. “You have gone above and beyond all of the duties,” he said.
Hamilton is set to step down from the organization before the end of the year.
The RDA was formed in 2007 to help revitalize blighted areas of Baton Rouge. The organization is working on two major redevelopment projects: the Electric Depot, a 6.1-acre mixed-use development at the old Entergy site at 1509 Government St., and Ardendale, a 200-acre tract northeast of Baton Rouge Community College near Florida Boulevard, which will eventually include 850 residences, retail space and a hotel. A Baton Rouge Community College automotive training center opened on the site last year and the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board's Career Academy is under construction.