Bowser names Brian Kenner top economic development aide, shuffles agencies

Bowser names Brian Kenner top economic development aide, shuffles agencies

By Jonathan O’Connell January 8 at 11:15 AM

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has appointed Brian Kenner as her deputy mayor for planning and economic development, recruiting him from the City of Takoma Park, where he served as city manager since the summer of 2013.

Kenner is a veteran of the deputy mayor’s office, having served as chief of staff there under former mayors Vincent C. Gray and Adrian M. Fenty, giving him familiarity with the wide array of real estate projects, housing and business incentives for which he will be responsible. A D.C. resident and native of Iowa, he is a former staffer at Fannie Mae and the real estate services firm JLL.

Brian Kenner, Muriel Bowser’s new deputy mayor for planning and economic development, will have a broader role that his predecessors. (Jeffrey MacMillan)

Kenner is the latest Bowser cabinet pick, following the appointments of a city administrator, chief of staff and officials overseeing education, health, homelessness, the environment and other areas. Mayoral spokesman Michael Czin confirmed Kenner’s selection.

Among his responsibilities will be determining how to bring down housing costs, attract businesses and advance development projects including remakes of the St. Elizabeths campus, the former Walter Reed army hospital and potentially the Reeves Center municipal building on U Street.

“Economic development and job creation are driving forces of the District’s economy and I am thrilled to return to this vibrant and diverse city,” Kenner said in a press release. “My job on day one is to provide residents and businesses the top notch quality of services they deserve and expect from a world-class city.”

Kenner will also enjoy a much wider purview of responsibility than his predecessor and former boss, Victor L. Hoskins, who was recently named director of economic development in Arlington. (Hoskins was replaced in D.C. on an interim basis by Jeffrey Miller).

According to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the mayor had not yet made the details public, Kenner will oversee the Department of Transportation (DDOT), the Department of the Environment (DDOE) and the Taxicab Commission. That’s in addition to oversight of housing, employment, permitting, planning, banking/insurance regulation, small business development, the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Office of the Tenant Advocate.

The expanded purview of economic development could raise some eyebrows because, in addition to the operational responsibilities of overseeing the transportation department — such as plowing snow — the portfolio includes more agencies that have a regulatory role over development and businesses.

That was already the case for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, but will also now be true for city’s energy department. In the past, that agency has raised concerns about real estate projects being pushed by economic development officials, such as the Costco-anchored Shops at Dakota Crossing in Northeast, which was developed only after the Gray’s economic development team agreed to make concessions to preserve wetlands there. Bowser (D) has appointed former council member Tommy Wells as director of the Department of the Environment.

The official said the realignment makes sense because every economic development project already touches on transportation and the environment. The D.C. streetcar line, which is undergoing testing and could begin operations later this month, has been touted for its economic development potential. The official compared the energy department’s role to that of the National Park Service, which has both conservation and planning roles.

“It’s really not going to affect DDOE’s regulatory role at all, it’s really just about trying to get better coordination between the agencies,” the official said.

Kenner is also expected to have a partner in addressing the concerns of the District’s less fortunate, as Bowser is expected to fulfill a campaign promise in creating the position of Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity. She has not named someone to fill that role or detailed the responsibilities of the post.

Kenner will serve beneath Rashad M. Young, Bowser’s new city administrator, alongside Jennifer C. Niles, deputy mayor for education, Kevin Donahue, deputy city administrator, and Brenda Donald, deputy mayor for health and human services.

Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: