Oh, Neil Albert, we hardly knew thee. In a move that surprised few, Mayor Adrian Fenty has appointed Valerie Santos the new Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (aka, the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Czar), following Albert’s recent promotion to City Administrator. Santos' appointment will be subject to a vote by the DC City Council at as-of-yet unscheduled confirmation hearing.
Unlike her predecessor, who rose to the Deputy Mayor post from the heart of economic development that is the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, Santos is a dyed-in-the-wool real estate maven, having served as a vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, a manager at Ernst & Young’s real estate division and as a Masters student in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before entering the lucrative civil service field to become her old boss’s Chief Operating Officer.
So just what does a Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development actually do? Here’s what Neil Albert told DCmud in a 2008 interview:
I see myself as convener of private sector and the natural community residents who sometimes have needs that complement each other and sometimes oppose each other. In many cases, my role is just to be the arbitrator…Our job is bringing the balance between the haves and the have-nots in DC, so we have the big law and lobby firms and the non-profits and the associations who are squeezed by real estate taxes right now, but that add to the flavor of DC. Instead of them having to relocate to suburbia, we step in and try to provide incentives to keep them here.
Among the overdue projects that Deputy Mayor Santos will be tasked with “arbitrating” in the coming year are, according to ODMPED, the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment, CityCenter DC, the O Street Market and the goings-on along the Minnesota Avenue/Benning Road corridor. That’s on top of her duty to oversee the “cluster of agencies” that fall under ODMPED’s purview, including the Department of Small and Local Business Development, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Office of Planning and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
And in a possible case of Sotomayor fever, Santos had been publicly known as Valerie Santos-Young right up until…well, this announcement. Can't hurt to suck up to and mimic the Obamas.