York City contracts Nace to plug economic development hole

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
Blanda Nace, former director of strategic development at the York County Economic Alliance, announced his candidacy for the York County Board of Commissioners on Sunday, Feb. 10.

York City has contracted with Blanda Nace, the former director of strategic development at the York County Economic Alliance, to assist with economic and community development as the city searches for staff to fill the empty department. 

Nace, a Republican, is running for county commissioner. He resigned from his role at the YCEA in February when he announced his candidacy. A YCEA attorney felt it would be a conflict of interest to continue in the job as he pursued county office, Nace said. 

But Nace said Thursday his work with the city is not a conflict of interest, noting he's working as an independent consultant and is not on the city payroll. 

If elected commissioner, Nace said, he would dedicate himself to serving full time. 

"This is just until they come up with a plan and find applicants for director of community development," he said. 

Nace started at the city about three weeks ago, after former acting department director Nicole Davis left. Davis briefly served in the role, appointed after former acting director Shilvosky Buffaloe left the city in March. 

The York City mayor's chief of staff, Philip Given, is serving as the acting director in the interim. 

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"The mayor called me and asked if I would help them oversee that department with Philip because Philip has the organization skills of the city but doesn’t have the redevelopment and property skills I do," Nace said. "We're working together to keep things moving until the director position is determined." 

Nace said he is working about 10 to 20 hours for the city. Neither he nor Given could be reached Thursday, May 2, to confirm his hourly rate. 

'Top person in this field': In June, the city considered outsourcing the department's responsibilities to the YCEA, but the proposal faced backlash from city residents who said it promoted gentrification. Despite last year's public controversy, Mayor Michael Helfrich said he's "not concerned with anyone being uncomfortable with Blanda Nace working for us."

"He is the top person in this field, and he is doing an amazing job and trying to put together a department, to reconstruct a department that needs a lot of work," Helfrich said.

"He’s an interim, he's there only on a contractual basis until we find someone on a permanent basis," City Council President Henry Nixon said. 

The goal for the city right now is to fill the department's open positions, Nace said. 

As a consultant for the city, Nace said, he is mainly organizing Redevelopment Authority files. 

He also said he's opening up lines of communication with the YCEA. 

"That has always been lacking between the city and economic alliance, not the city as a whole but this department, and I think that at least looking forward I personally don’t believe that it needs to be completely outsourced to the alliance, but there needs to be a stronger connection," Nace said.

That connection could be forged through regular meetings and keeping each other in the loop on specific projects, he said. 

"Let's not forget to keep the alliance engaged — they serve all of York County, and the city is part of the county," Nace said. 

— Rebecca Klar can be reached at rklar@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter @RebeccaKlar_.