(Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 14--Cameron Ross knows good leadership is about balance.
It was an obvious first lesson when he was a white water rafting guide in college, literally balancing the raft and the entertainment of tourists. The concept is more metaphorical in his new role in Germantown.
As the new director of economic and community development services, Ross is tasked with balancing economic and neighborhood growth with preserving the character of Germantown.
"You're never going to make everyone happy, but as long as you're balanced, I think there's success in that," Ross said.
City Administrator Patrick Lawton hired Ross to replace Andy Pouncey, who retired at the end of last year. Ross, 34, started work Monday and will be paid $100,000 a year.
Lawton said Ross' duties include implementing the city's Economic Development Strategic Plan. The city hired a consulting firm last year to create the plan. The Board of Mayor and Alderman last week approved extending the company's contract five months until the end of the fiscal year to help transition Ross to take over the project. The company, Rose & Associates Southeast, Inc., will be on retainer at least through June for up to 18 hours per week at a cost of $37,500 plus up to $2,500 in expenses per month.
Between the economic strategic plan and the city's Smart Growth strategy, Ross will focus on combining all the goals and create a road map for accomplishing them. He will oversee a department of people in roles like planing, neighborhood services and code compliance.
Recruiting new businesses isn't his main focus, but he is always willing to be a point of contact for potential business owners thinking of coming to the city.
"I think that Germantown is one of those places where businesses want to come," Ross said. "They can pretty easily look at the demographics of the community and see that there's a significant amount of buying power here."
Ross, a native of Madison, Miss., attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he met his wife, Andrea, a food safety specialist. They moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Ross worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and then the city of Cincinnati. He most recently spent six years as a planner in charge of several projects focusing on neighborhoods. He managed a $2.4 million federal grant to create land development codes.
"It was all about making places more livable," Ross said.
Ross said he is a community guy at his core and is looking forward to meeting people in Germantown and "trying to figure out what they love and how to keep people loving it."
While the city has transitioned from being just a suburb of Memphis to its own city, Ross said he will strive to give neighborhoods destination points to serve the needs of a growing and aging population.
"People want to stay here," Ross said of the older generation. "Where can people move to? If you want a condo, you've got some opportunities here in Germantown, but you've got newer opportunities in East Memphis or Collierville."
With generational housing, he said, must be shopping and services nearby with sufficient walking space, and the creation of "destinations for people to come and park and stay awhile."
Ross said first priority, though, is listening to the community about what they want their city to look like.
"Germantown has been successful without me," he said. "I've got to observe and figure out how they've been successful and figure out what should be augmented and what should just continue to work."
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