VALPARAISO | The city's economic development team took another hit Wednesday with the resignation of Stuart Summers as executive director of the city's Redevelopment Commission effective Jan. 1.
Summers's departure announcement comes a couple of months after the city's Economic Development Director Matt Murphy left to take a position with his family's company. A replacement is expected to be announced soon.
Summers, 58, was a member of the city's first redevelopment commission in 1994 and became the commission's executive director in 2002. He said his resignation will allow him to focus on his other business interests and personal goals. Summers owns Excel Driving Instruction, does government consulting and is a resolution arbitrator for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
"I have been involved in numerous projects during my time with the commission, and I have thoroughly enjoyed serving Valparaiso," he said. "I believe that with the recent signing of the Pratt expansion project it is a good time to move on. I will still be around, and I will assist in helping the transition to John Shepherd go smoothly."
Shepherd, 60, of Oak Hill Partners, is a redevelopment consultant for several communities, including Portage. His one-year contract as interim director calls for him to spend 15 hours a week for the city at $120 an hour, which would be a total of $93,600 for the year. He would leave sooner if a replacement is found.
Shepherd said he is not interested in applying for the Valparaiso position permanently. In fact, he said he was thinking of retiring when the city called to ask him to take over temporarily. He and his wife run an apple orchard at their home in Porter.
For the rest of the year he will be shadowing Summers to learn all the projects the city is working on. He told the commission at its meeting Wednesday, "There's a lot going on, and I look forward to working with you."
Councilman John Bowker, who also serves on the commission, said the group has been involved in projects totaling about half a billion dollars since Summers joined the first panel appointed by then-Mayor David Butterfield. Commission Member Laura Campbell said Summers will be missed.
"I look at other cities in Northwest Indiana, and there is a reason Valparaiso continues to win awards," Campbell said.
Commission Member Jim Jorgensen said, "Without question, Stu and John Shepherd are the two quality people to go to for economic development. It will be a loss and a win for us."