Mayor Sam Teresi's appointment of Vince DeJoy as Jamestown development director is many things.
Because the process was cloaked in secrecy, there is no way for the public to decide whether DeJoy is the best candidate for the job. DeJoy's position as a sitting City Council member and Jamestown Democratic Party chairman could easily place him as an insider in the public's eyes. A closed search process lets the public's collective mind run wild with thoughts of political favors and backdoor meetings. In fact, not being able to judge the candidates makes DeJoy's life a little more difficult. The appointment can easily be viewed as one hand washing the other, the sort of political backscratching the public is so tired of in Washington, D.C., and Albany.
There probably were safer choices. Certainly, Teresi knew what the appearances could be by appointing DeJoy.
That said, it is an interesting choice.
DeJoy, despite his strong business background, will have a steep learning curve in handling the grants and administrative duties that come with the Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency, Jamestown Local Development Corp. and the city development department - all of which are part of the development director position. Economic development professionals have, over time, developed their own language that DeJoy will now have to learn on the fly.
Whoever was tapped as development director faced a daunting task. It will take years to reverse decades of neglect in some city neigborhoods. Despite massive investment in the west end, there are still oodles of vacant storefronts and buildings that still need millions of dollars of investment before they can be used for anything worthwhile. The federal government is making those efforts even more difficult by cutting Community Development Block Grants every year. The investment climate still isn't great, so it's not as if developers are flocking anywhere in New York state with blank checks.
Why, then, would the mayor look outside that economic development structure for someone to lead a department?
Because it was time for a fresh voice.
Teresi hired a person with a fresh perspective on the inner workings of the development department and of its staff while still hiring someone whose background as a very recent City Council member brings knowledge of the issues facing the city. Those fresh eyes may spot solutions to problems that have been overlooked in the past. Teresi is also banking on DeJoy's background as a small-business owner. After all, multi-million dollar development deals are only part of what goes into a thriving local economy. More must be done to help local entrepreneurs establish and grow businesses, and DeJoy has been in on the ground floor of several successful business start-ups.
Teresi could have taken the safe choice and the easy route. Easy and safe is not always the best choice.
Let's see where the hard road takes us.