The town has finally hired its new downtown development manager, nearly seven months after the former director left for a promotion, one of two key hirings the town announced last week.
Mari Howe will continue efforts to revitalize the town’s historic downtown, that has seen slow but steady growth in recent years.
Howe, a Garner resident, will manage the Garner Main Street Program, promote and facilitate implementation of the Historic Downtown Garner Plan, and serve as a staff liaison and executive director of the Garner Revitalization Association (GRA).
Her annual salary is $52,000.
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“Mari’s educational background, work experience and knowledge of the Garner community make her an ideal fit for this position,” Assistant Town Manager John Hodges said in a press release. “I am excited to have someone with her skills set lead the next chapter of our downtown development efforts.”
Hodges was the former downtown development manager.
Howe was selected through a staff-managed assessment-center-type process. It included representation from town administrative staff, peer staff, Town Council and the GRA Board of Directors.
“Mari really gave us a lot of insight and ideas into things we might do in the future for our downtown,” Patrick Byrd, chairman of the GRA board of directors, said. “It was very inspiring. She really seems to have a grasp of what we need as an organization to continue moving forward.”
Revitalizing downtown has been among the top priorities of the town and the GRA. Part of the bond voters passed in 2013 addresses revitalizing downtown.
And a few months ago, the town council made the downtown development manager position, a town position to entice highly qualified candidates. The position is part of the Economic Development Department.
The position was previously funded by the GRA as part of its annual grant to support downtown development and manage the Garner Main Street Program.
While Garner’s downtown remains a work in progress, recent years have seen roads repaved, dilapidated storefronts fixed, sidewalks replaced and new lighting installed.
Now all downtown needs is more retail and some restaurants.
Hodges has previously said he expects the new recreation center – expected to be built by 2017 – will be the catalyst for future development in the area.
New HR director
A newly hired Human Resources Director will start his new position Monday, according to Town officials.
B.D. Sechler, a former sales associate, will take over June 1. His salary will be $78,500.
Sechler has 21 years experience in human resources at six different private sector employers. Those employers include Data General, Fairlane Motor Credit, IIS, Nortel, Visiting International Fellows (VIF) and Qimonda.
“Sechler is highly regarded by his colleagues,” Town Manager Hardin Watkins said in a press release. “All of the comments I received included very positive words such as ‘genuine,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘easy to talk to,’ ‘honest,’ ‘even-keeled,’ ‘down to earth,’ ‘humble’ and ‘trustworthy.’”
“The Town is excited about his arrival on June 1, and we look forward to very promising results from him as our next Human Resources Department leader,” Watkins added.
His last stint in human resources was at Qimonda in 2009 before moving on to become a sales associate at Raleigh Running Outfitters in Cary.
Sechler was selected out of a pool of 134 applicants. Sechler was selected as the top candidate after an extensive two-day assessment center with seven semi-finalists.
There were 134 applicants for the HR director vacancy.
The position had been vacant for some time. Kimberly Storey was serving as the interim HR director.
A resident of Wake County since 1988, Sechler has a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations and bachelor’s degree in business, both from Michigan State University.