Gwen Hamilton named interim CEO of RDA

At a salary that will be a fraction of what her predecessor earned, Gwen Hamilton is taking over as interim CEO of the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority. The RDA board of commissioners voted this morning to accept the recommendation of board chairman John Noland to hire Hamilton at a salary of $75,000 per year, with a provision that the salary could be increased to no more than $100,000.

Hamilton succeeds Walter Monsour, who announced his resignation from the cash-strapped RDA last month amidst criticism from Mayor Kip Holden over why the agency is running out of money and has yet to identify a permanent funding source. Monsour, whose resignation is effective Nov. 30, did not attend this morning’s meeting. His total compensation and benefits package was an estimated $365,000 in recent years. Monsour’s close friend, business and civic leader Steve Hicks, got up and spoke at the meeting to defend Monsour’s reputation, which, Hicks said, has been maligned over the past month.

“Walter deserves, in my opinion, better than what he has received over the past 38 days,” Hicks said. “He has earned the praise, the thanks, the gratitude of this community both from the less fortunate in the community, which from Walter’s perspective is what the RDA is all about, but also he’s earned the same gratitude and thanks from the very fortunate in the community who, for whatever reason, chose not to stand up in his defense.”

Hamilton also spoke, saying she is ready to tackle the agency’s funding challenges. She is a veteran administrator with experience working with nonprofit agencies and local government in the area of redevelopment. She has headed the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s redevelopment efforts in Old South Baton Rouge, worked with BRAC in community development and has also run the city-parish Office of Community Development.

“I believe in the RDA and know it has to develop a sustainable business plan,” Hamilton said. “I have no idea what that looks like, but I know it has to be done.”

Hamilton said she hopes to develop a sustainable business model for the agency by  December 2015, the date by which the RDA will run out of money if it cannot identify new funding sources.

“It will be tough, but that is what I’m going to do,” she said. —Stephanie Riegel

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