The year 2008 has brought some new faces to various offices within the City of Thomson, and a familiar one has returned to fill a new position. The Board of Directors of Thomson's Housing Authority, along with the Mayor and City Council of Thomson, recently named Bob Flanders to serve as interim Community Development Director.
"It's an exciting opportunity that the city is addressing in an effort to coordinate and maximize new things that they've not done in the past," Mr. Flanders said.
Mr. Flanders served as city administrator from 1979 until 1982 and 2001 until 2007, when former Forward McDuffie Executive Director Don Powers was hired to take his place. To ease the transition, Mr. Flanders stayed aboard for several months this past January, so that Mr. Powers would be established in his position when Thomson Mayor Ken Usry became the city's first new mayor in 28 years, joined by four newly-elected city council members.
New to the City of Thomson, the Community Development position combines the duties of the Housing Authority executive director with ongoing and future housing initiatives in Thomson.
When Marilynn Stevenson, the director of the Housing Authority, announced at the end of 2007 her intentions to retire, the City Council and Authority Board decided the timing was good to carry out the merger that had been in discussion for quite some time.
"The idea is for him to spend no more than about a year in this position trying to blend both jobs together and then we'll hire somebody from the outside," Mr. Powers said. "Our feeling was (if we hired) somebody from the outside without first developing it would be counterproductive. He's laying down the foundation that will allow us to go out and hire somebody that can step right in and have a playbook on how both jobs blend, and then we'll take off. It's a good decision I think."
Ms. Stevenson is currently the executive director of four housing authorities: Thomson, Harlem, Warrenton and Crawfordville. She only is retiring from the Thomson position and will continue working for the other three.
Mr. Powers said other cities have a community development director whose duties include tending to substandard housing, applying for grants, and making sure programs are dovetailed into one another.
"And what makes ours a little bit different than others is we want it to include the housing authority, and Marilyn Stevenson's retirement prompted us to go on and get it fleshed out." Mr. Powers said. "In fact, we should have had it done by the end of the year."
The Authority Board approved this selection at their last meeting and the Council discussed it in a March 26 executive session. It will be approved at the regular City Council meeting tonight, according to a press release sent out Monday, April . -the same day that Mr. Flanders began working in his new position.
During his time spent as city administrator, Mr. Flanders helped initiate infrastructure improvements to the city and at the local airports. Now, he said he is looking forward to begin improvements in the area of housing.
"I think housing is the key to a good neighborhood," he said.