Economic, Community Development chief named

Economic, Community Development chief named

May 16th, 2013 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Donna C. Williams

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

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A woman who is no stranger to real estate or community service will lead Chattanooga's Economic and Community Development department under Mayor Andy Berke.

Donna Williams, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga and a Realtor, was tapped Wednesday to lead the department that replaced the former Neighborhood Services under Berke's restructuring.

Noting that she first needed to be confirmed by the Chattanooga City Council, Williams said Wednesday she was excited to join the city, despite having to retire her real estate license and leave Habitat for Humanity.

"This new assignment gives me the opportunity to see that we widen the opportunities for all citizens and spread the goodness in Chattanooga around," said Willliams, 52.

In a prepared statement, Berke said Williams' experience and relationships in real estate and neighborhood revitalization made her a good fit for the job.

"By working closely with our key partners, we can grow our city by both attracting large companies and helping to grow startups and small businesses throughout Chattanooga," Berke said.

Williams said that, if confirmed, she will spend time getting acclimated to the office, then reach out to community groups.

"We have a number of neighborhood associations in the city, and when you have an effective neighborhood association, they are really the lifeblood of the community," Williams said.

In March, while Williams was on Berke's transition team, she said she wasn't looking for a job in city government.

On Wednesday, she said that was true at the time.

"To be honest in the beginning, everything was unfolding, and I was just there to serve as a private citizen. I was very excited about these forums. At that point, it wasn't even on the radar," she said.

Williams was contacted a few weeks ago about the job, and she had a change of heart, she said.

Williams joins other directors Berke recently appointed to his revamped City Hall organization: Lurone Jennings, who is Youth and Family Development administrator; Blythe Bailey, who is administrator of the Department of Transportation; and James McKissic, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In addition, Berke has named Lee Norris as administrator of the Public Works Department and Ron Swafford as City Court clerk.

A Chattanooga native, Williams attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and worked for a variety of computer and technology companies in Chattanooga and Atlanta before starting her own consulting and development firm in the Scenic City.

She worked on the M.L. King Tomorrow Initiative before joining Habitat for Humanity as director in June 2012.

Williams has been involved in a number of civic and community organizations. She has served as vice chairwoman of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority and as a board member of the Chattanooga Community Housing Development Organization, Chattanooga Historic Zoning Commission, Chattanooga Habitat for Humanity, Cornerstones Inc., Chattanooga Launch and the UTC Chancellor's Roundtable.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at 423-757-6481 or lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.