With Havre de Grace's economic development leader about to step down, the city council is hoping to establish a separate department for economic development.

Economic Development Manager Meghan Simmons will leave her position at the end of August, Mayor Wayne Dougherty said Monday.

During the city council meeting Monday night, council members introduced a resolution that would establish the position of a director of economic development – as opposed to economic development manager – as well as an economic development department – under the city charter.

Councilman Bill Martin explained Simmons' position included a salary and a pension, but the charter amendment would elevate that position to a director's role, which is a contract position.

If the charter amendment establishing the post passes, a director of economic development would be comparable to the directors of public works and planning and zoning.

Martin said the change will give residents more control over the direction of the city.

It will be the mayor's job to find someone to fill the role and the council will approve it, as is done with the other director positions, he said.

"No one can say that our city is doing financially fantastic, as far as businesses go," Martin noted. "There's much we can do to make businesses better."

Martin said the council thinks this is a better approach to developing the city's economy.

Councilman Dave Glenn said business growth is the subject of many questions he is asked regularly by residents.

"It's evident that economic development is on everybody's radar screen," he said, adding it comes up at candidate forums year after year.

"It only makes sense to elevate that to the level of a director," he said.

Councilman Joe Smith also said he would support the proposal and noted he asked in an e-mail earlier why the city does not have directors of tourism and economic development.

"I like the idea of actually bringing this position of economic development to the director position," Smith said. "I would add tourism to that as well because the two go hand-in-hand."

Smith said the city has a "huge opportunity" to improve on what it has been doing, and mentioned the recent Art Show, Seafood Festival and War of 1812 weekend as examples of how tourism and economic development work together.

"We've got a great foundation," he said about the city. "The mayor and administration are extremely talented and can handle a lot more, and I think we can take it to the next level."

Event success

Brigitte Peters, the city's tourism and marketing manager, told the council that 26,000 people were ultimately found to have attended the War of 1812 commemoration in May over the course of three days.

She estimated the event brought more than $1 million to the county, directly or indirectly.

More volunteers also took part in the event than in any other Havre de Grace event, a $30,000 value, she said.