Originally created 08/31/99

Former mayor to lead committee



Former Augusta Mayor Charles A. DeVaney temporarily will lead efforts to revitalize the city's Laney-Walker Historic District.

Bernard Silverstein, chairman of the board for Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp., appointed Mr. DeVaney on Monday to serve as the corporation's executive director. The appointment received unanimous support from the board.

"He has a sense of this program and some depth," Mr. Silverstein said of Mr. DeVaney. "He's on the scene. He's available."

Mr. DeVaney will serve the agency through Dec. 31, Mr. Silverstein said. In the meantime, the board will seek a permanent executive director, he said.

The former mayor had performed legwork for the non-profit agency since Mayor Bob Young announced its creation in July. The corporation was created through a reorganization of Augusta Housing Homestead Inc., a similar agency formed by Mr. DeVaney during his tenure as mayor from 1984 until 1996.

Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. will help find government and private funding for groups working to provide low- and middle-income housing in the Laney-Walker district.

The agency will oversee $6 million to $8 million in funding for the district, which is bounded by Laney-Walker Boulevard, Walton Way and Seventh and 12th streets.

Mr. DeVaney said he was pleased by the board's "vote of confidence."

"This has been an exciting project," he said. "We have an opportunity to make some really good, visible things happen in Augusta."

His first task will be to build the agency's foundation, he said.

"The immediate mission is lay the groundwork for the organization," Mr. DeVaney said. "At the same time, you don't want to lose the momentum and interest of the city and financial institutions who want to see things happen."

The board has not set Mr. DeVaney's salary because the corporation is not yet officially in business, Mr. Silverstein said. The agency is awaiting the first $50,000 of a proposed $1 million grant from Augusta's city government.

"We don't have a penny," the chairman said. "I don't have a bank account. We'll just have to see what he wants and what we can work out."

Effective Wednesday, Mr. DeVaney will resign as executive vice president of Augusta Tomorrow Inc., a corporation that promotes economic development in Augusta. He announced his resignation in July.

As mayor, Mr. DeVaney oversaw efforts to revitalize downtown, including construction of Riverwalk Augusta. He boasted of opposing tax increases. but opponents accused him of nearly bankrupting the city before the city and Richmond County governments united in 1996.

Mr. DeVaney said he has paid little attention to such criticism.

"It doesn't concern me a bit," he said. "Whenever you have a public-oriented job, you have to expect it. I don't think it's all deserved, but it's something you learn to live with. For the most part, there's not much I would change from my 12 years as mayor."

Brandon Haddock can be reached at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.