Lawrence Redevelopment Commission hires new executive director


The City of Lawrence Redevelopment Commission had its first meeting of the year during a special meeting March 4, and hired Keith Johnson as the new executive director for the city’s economic development program.

Johnson was a campaign advisor for Mayor Deb Whitfield and a member of her transition team following her election in November. He told the commission that he previously worked for the city as director of planning and zoning and briefly as interim city controller.

“It’s a pleasure to be back,” Johnson said. “And many of the projects that were on the city’s plate are still there — redeveloping Pendleton Pike is an incredible challenge.”

Johnson said the commission’s powers include providing incentives to businesses and support infrastructure improvements and purchasing land for future projects.

“One of the commission’s main tools is to buy and hold property and to try to find a larger redevelopment use, and there’s a few prominent examples — Meyer Plastics being one of them,” he said.

The commission voted unanimously to approve a motion hiring Johnson. Also on March 4, the commission voted to hire Russell Brown of Indianapolis-based Clark, Quinn, Moses, Scott & Grahn law firm as its legal counsel; and Oscar Gutierrez of Carmel-based Bondry Consulting as the commission’s financial advisor. They both also served on Whitfield’s transition team.

Also during the meeting, the commission appointed Jerrell Blakeley as the new president, with Elia James as vice president and Mari Swayn as treasurer. Other commission members are Sarah Whittaker and Craig Willey.

The council took no other action during the special meeting. Its next regular meeting is 3:30 p.m. March 28 at Lawrence Government Center, 9001 E. 59th St.