EAST CHICAGO | The city didn't have to look far for a new redevelopment director, hiring the former head of public housing in Hammond on Friday.
Redevelopment commissioners approved a two-year contract with Maria Becerra in a special afternoon meeting, when most city offices were closed for a mandatory furlough day.
Becerra, of Highland, worked for the Hammond Housing Authority for 29 years, the last 19 as executive director, until her final contract expired Dec. 31 and was not renewed by the city's housing board.
She replaces John Artis, East Chicago's director of redevelopment from 1978 until his retirement last week.
"I assure you that you will have my full dedication to the job," Becerra told redevelopment commissioners.
As director, Becerra will be responsible for managing the city's tax increment financing districts and federal development funding being used for the ongoing North Harbor revitalization project and planned single-family home construction in the Calumet area.
She starts today and will be paid $65,000 per year.
Officials said there are no plans to rejoin the city housing and redevelopment departments, which functioned as one entity with a single director for 40 years until their separation in 2008.