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Richard Gehring on the short list to replace Pasco's growth management chief

A former city manager turned developer is on track to be the county's next top growth management chief.

Richard Gehring, 61, was planning director for Dunedin from 1974 to 1979 and city manager from 1979 to 1982. Since then he has worked as a private sector developer.

"He has been involved with numerous projects in the Tampa Bay area including the creation of the Channelside district on the Tampa waterfront," County Administrator John Gallagher wrote in a March 11 memo to county commissioners, who will consider Gehring for the $100,000 a year job during their meeting Tuesday.

If approved, Gehring will replace longtime growth management administrator Sam Steffey, who is set to retire April 30 after 30 years of service.

"I have worked on local, state and national initiatives and spoken at all levels to advance policy issues both public and private," Gehring said in his cover letter. He said Friday that he has a deep background in both public and private aspects of development that will serve the county well.

A lot on the table

Gehring will have his work cut out for him. The county is going through massive change, with the land development code being rewritten, a nearly $30 million budget hole that needs to be plugged and a new strategic plan being developed. The county also is preparing for an evaluation and appraisal report that assesses how its blueprint for growth is working.

That's why Gallagher wants Gehring to start Tuesday.

"A one-month overlap between Mr. Steffey's retirement and Mr. Gehring's arrival will enable Mr. Gehring to be involved in the visioning process, the implementation of some (Urban Land Institute) recommendations and other issues important to the future of Pasco County," Gallagher wrote.

Gehring holds a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Virginia School of Architecture and a bachelor's degree in political science from the College of William and Mary.

His most recent job is as principal of Prime Interests Inc., a Dunedin development firm.

Recent projects, according to the firm's Web site, include the development of $225 million in capital improvements for the port in cruise and cargo facilities, redevelopment planning for Pinellas County, development planning for Sequoyah Lodge & Lake Resort, a 500-unit lakefront resort for the Tennessee Valley Authority and Eastern Band Cherokee Indians, and development planning with the city of Clearwater for the Clearwater Seashell Resort, a major hotel and mixed use project.

He was also one of three developers of a $30 million project on Dunedin's Main Street who were sued last year for defaulting on nearly $5.7 million in loans.

After they missed interest payments due in July, August and September for loans on the marina project at 200 Main St., Synovus Bank of Tampa Bay filed a suit in Pinellas County against them for the entire amount — plus interest and attorney's fees.

The developers are discussing the situation with their attorneys and looking at a possible sale.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Richard Gehring on the short list to replace Pasco's growth management chief 03/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:05pm]
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