New DDA director to start in January

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Resident Joseph Gruber is excited to take the director reins of the Downtown Development Authority next month.

“I’m very, very familiar with the downtown area and business owners,” said Gruber, who bartended at R.P. McMurphy’s. “I’m really excited for the opportunity and I’m eager to get started and to learn.”

Gruber is working in Detroit with the Michigan Department of Transportation on a project dealing with removing blight as part of a Kellogg Fellowship for his Masters Community Development from the University of Detroit Mercy.

“It’s been a great experience, coordinating with the city, state and local residents,” he said.

Gruber said people have told him he has some big shoes to fill, left vacant in September by outgoing DDA Director Natalie Rankine. The lifelong Wyandotte resident took an architecture and drafting teaching position at Roosevelt High School.

Rankine was not able to remain a committee member because she doesn’t live downtown.

The City Council searched for a new DDA director in October and November and selected five candidates for interviews for the $41,787 position. The candidates were interviewed by DDA members Patt Slack, Leo Stevenson, Mayor Joseph Peterson and City Administrator Todd Drysdale.

The DDA board approved the hiring of Gruber on Dec. 8, during their meeting.

Gruber, who celebrates his two-year anniversary with his wife, Christina, on Monday, agreed he has some big shoes to fill, but notes he has a passion for community development and wants to help make a great city even greater.

Gruber met Rankine when he was working downtown and expressed his interest in community development.

Gruber said Rankine thought of him as a candidate for her former job.

“It’s a dream come true,” Gruber said of the position. “To live in Wyandotte, work in Wyandotte. It’s something special.”

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at