Wasting human capital

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Wendy Fuscoe lost her job with the city of High Point when she went out for a cup of coffee.

In May 2014, the former executive director of City Project, High Point’s organization charged with the renewal of downtown, had just finished a presentation from consultant Joe Minicozzi to city council on the benefits of dieting Main Street, including encouraging slower traffic and pedestrian activity on the thoroughfare.

While she was gone, council voted 7-2 to eliminate Fuscoe’s job and dissolve ties to the five-year-old City Project initiative, an action that had consequences in the next municipal election that saw an overhaul of council.

It took Fuscoe about half an hour to find a cup of coffee in downtown High Point that day, something that underscores the need for revitalization in that area.

But this was no simple firing. City Project is an independent nonprofit, with its own board. But unlike executive directors of downtown organizations in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, Fuscoe’s salary had been paid by the city.

It took Fuscoe half an hour to find coffee in downtown High Point, something that underscores the need for revitalization.

And, in fact it still is.

Council reassigned Fuscoe, who has shown verve for the city and its urban districts, to direct the Core City initiative, an entity that supplanted City Project, allowing her to keep her six-figure salary but squandering her skill set.

Under City Project, Fuscoe had a specific mandate —enacting some of the suggestions by urban architect Andrés Duany among them; while she was there, Fuscoe wrote grants, gave presentations, managed projects and coordinated efforts between departments. She was among the most capable and productive of city staff.

Her job description for Core City is much more vague.

We reported last week that her job description, as laid out by interim City Manager Randy McCaslin, included working with city officials, nonprofits and community groups to establish priorities and promote development and revitalization of the core city. There’s not much to quantify there.

Under new City Manager Greg Demko, High Point is reassessing the role of the Core City Action Plan. But what they need to do is reassess Fuscoe, who has the goods to amp up whatever organization she works for.

If the will is not there for true downtown revitalization, then release Fuscoe to the private or nonprofit sector where she can actually get something done instead of squandering her abilities on lunch meetings.

It’s a matter of getting the square pegs into the square holes. A community of furniture makers should understand that concept.

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