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Gary board awards contracts for several top city positions

Updated: December 18, 2013 9:25PM



GARY — The Board of Public Works and Safety extended another contract to a top mayoral aide Wednesday, and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Commerce Director J. Forest Hayes will be devoted totally to the Economic Development Corp. beginning next month.

The board also gave Communication Director Chelsea Stalling Whittington another six-month, $45,000 contract.

Bo Kemp, doing business as J. Gari and Associates, will get a one-year, $35,000 contract to serve as a consultant to the Commerce Department and other departments, such as Community Development, that now report to Hayes.

Hayes, who has been director of the city’s revitalized EDC, will move out of his commerce role to focus on EDC work, Freeman-Wilson said. She did not name her choice as commerce director, and Hayes may stay on as president of the city’s Redevelopment Commission.

The mayor, who is halfway through her first term, said moving Hayes to strictly EDC work and seeking a new commerce director is not a reorganization. Instead, the EDC and commerce director positions were meant to be held by two different people from the start, so the move in January will just fulfill her plans, Freeman-Wilson said.

“What I’ve determined, and this has kind of been through a collaborative effort internally, it’s unfair to ask one person to fill both (the EDC and commerce director) roles,” she said.

Kemp and Hayes have worked together on economic development projects, but Kemp’s role has been to work “at the 35,000 foot, big-picture level,” Freeman-Wilson said, including working with other governmental entities to boost Gary’s economy. Hayes is to work directly with businesses, she added.

Kemp, who once advised Newark, N.J., mayor and U.S. Sen.-elect Corey Booker, is one of Freeman-Wilson’s top aides, regularly representing the city on matters related to the Gary Sanitary District, the Gary/Chicago International Airport and other high profile issues.

Previously, he racked up nearly $200,000 in contracts with various city departments.

Hayes earns $90,000 as commerce director and an additional, smaller salary as EDC director.

For her part, Whittington gets another six-month contract, beginning in January. As a consultant, she is immune from the unpaid furlough days city employees making more than $40,000 must undergo.

If the board holds to form, Whittington’s contract likely will be renewed for another six months next spring.

In other business, the board awarded Dr. Roland Walker another one-year contract for $60,000 to serve as the city’s health commissioner. Along with leading the city’s health department, he will serve as a liaison to state public health officials.



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