The board overseeing the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority today unanimously voted to hire LSU law professor Chris Tyson to head the agency, which recently received new marching orders from City Hall.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome picked Tyson to lead the RDA , submitting his name to the board in September. If everything goes smoothly after today’s vote, Tyson hopes to take a leave of absence from the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and begin working at the RDA in January. He also wants to teach as an adjunct law professor.
Tyson has been a close advisor to Broome, serving as a key member of her transition team after her election last year. His areas of legal expertise—property, real estate development and local government law, among others—overlap with much of the RDA’s work.
“I’m a cities guy,” he says, pointing to his academic work on local government and urban development. “All of that makes me really excited to get on the ground, roll up our sleeves and make some things happen.”
Gwen Hamilton, who has served as interim CEO of the RDA since 2014, will step down when Tyson begins. The board’s hiring of Tyson comes at the same time as a realignment at City Hall. Under the move, the RDA will expand its efforts, receiving more federal money dedicated to areas like housing rehabilitation, as the city-parish Office of Community Development is pared down and becomes a directing arm. The RDA is expected to take on around $4 million of additional projects annually and will add staff.
“I think the transition is vitally important,” Tyson says.
City-parish agencies administering federal block grants and other programs have had trouble following government rules in the past. Tyson says one of his priorities will be to ensure the RDA is in compliance with the federal government.
Broome has promised around half a million dollars in next year’s city-parish budget for the RDA, which is less than the $800,000 the agency has requested. Still, the funding could represent a shift toward financial stability for the RDA. There are budgets in place for both funding scenarios, board chairman John Noland says. A final budget number has yet to be reached.
Also today, the board voted to hire engineering firm HNTB to design passenger rail stations in Baton Rouge, an effort that is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
While the new federal dollars and promise of city-parish funding is exciting, Tyson says the RDA will still be a “resource-constrained” environment.
Board members will negotiate the details of Tyson’s contract in the coming weeks and will offer him a salary and benefit package commensurate with his current pay at LSU.