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Tampa City Council and Mayor Jane Castor agree to hire development official

Council members unanimously vote to ask the mayor to hire Michelle Van Loan, the mayor’s interim director of the city’s eight Community Redevelopment Areas.

TAMPA — It was a months-long process that was dramatic at times, recently described by Mayor Jane Castor’s chief of staff as a “dance.”

On Thursday, the political ballet ended with an embrace.

Council members, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, and Castor’s administration agreed to forgo a national search and hire Michelle Van Loan, a longtime economic development official, to oversee the city’s eight redevelopment areas.

“Everybody just raves about her ability and credentials,” said council member John Dingfelder, who made the motion to hire Van Loan. “I think we should promote from within when we have the opportunity.”

Van Loan is Castor’s choice, too, said mayoral spokeswoman Ashley Bauman. And her appointment, which will become official once the human resources process is complete, is evidence of the “transparency” of the administration’s efforts to work with council members.

“It shows our collaborative effort. Council realized that the administration was doing their part,” Bauman said.

Council members praised Van Loan as the right fit for a job that had been a flash point between Castor and City Council since four new members took office in May. Thursday, they unanimously approved asking Castor to hire Van Loan.

Previously, council members Dingfelder, Bill Carlson and Orlando Gudes had led the effort to hire a director who would report to council members — not work for the mayor, as that person had in the past.

Castor’s administration eventually reached a compromise: Council members would select the director who would be part of the mayor’s administration for “human resource” purposes.

Related: It's not a power strugge, it's a dance

Van Loan will report to council members in their capacity as board members of the Community Redevelopment Agency. Her salary has not yet been determined, Bauman said.

An emotional Van Loan, who has worked for the city since 2005, thanked the council members for their support and vowed to be an active leader.

“To make sure we can be out in the community more than we have been in the past,” she said at the redevelopment meeting.