Friday, October 22 2021

Maurice Taggart, executive director of the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency, handed in his letter of resignation Tuesday evening during an executive session of the agency’s board of directors.

Taggart, 41, who was hired for the post three years ago, said after the meeting that his resignation was effective at the end of the month and that he was eager to launch his own legal career.

In Taggart’s resignation letter to the board dated September 14, he said he would resign effective September 30.

“I have decided to take on a role in the private sector, which will prevent me from giving the necessary attention to the realization of many of our current projects,” the letter said. “The decision to quit was difficult and after careful consideration I know it is in the best interests of my family and the URA.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Taggart explained his decision in more detail.

“It’s about time,” said Taggart, who is married to Jefferson County Clerk Shawndra Taggart. “Everyone has a season and my season is over. I told my board that when it’s time for me to move on, they don’t have to tell me. would say. “

After hearing the news, Alderman Joni Alexander said the timing was bittersweet – sad that Taggart is stepping down, but also said she understands why.

“The climate of his post is already stressful and then all the politics he had to face, I think we made a decision not so difficult for him to continue and to benefit from his education and his experiences”, Alexander noted.

Mayor Shirley Washington has said unexpectedly, Pine Bluff is stronger today than it has been in many decades, with unprecedented economic development and job growth thanks to “dedicated people.” and dedicated ”like Taggart.

“As Director of Urban Renewal, Maurice Taggart has been a passionate leader with a dynamic and transformative vision for Pine Bluff,” Washington said. “This has guided his efforts every step of the way, which we can see throughout the community. Our gratitude for his service is immeasurable. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

When asked about his plans, Taggart said he recently passed the bar exam and was going to open an office in Pine Bluff to begin developing his law practice. Taggart said he already had business awaiting him.

Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency president Jimmy Dill said he would have loved dissuading Taggart from resigning, but knew that day would come once Taggart received his license to practice law.

“I hate it. He did a great job with us,” Dill said. “He led us in an extremely professional manner and got us where we wanted to go to try to achieve our goals. He was absolutely, positively, the right man for the job.”

Dill said the renovation of downtown buildings on Main Street, which has attracted the interest of several investors, is attributed to Taggart and the agency’s efforts.

Taggart said the board appointed Chandra Griffin as interim director and was asked to stay on as a consultant for six months.

Taggart praised Griffin, who was initially hired to be his executive assistant.

“I was blown away by the level of his seriousness and thoroughness,” Taggart said of Griffin. “My conversations with her have been extensive. She keeps me on my p’s and my q’s.”

Taggart said Griffin had the poise, the right training, and the experience to do the job.

“She did a great job as COO, and I have full confidence in her,” Taggart said.

Dill also said he trusted Griffin, saying she was “very capable” of taking on the role of executive director.

Griffin is 17 years in real estate and is licensed as a real estate broker. She also has administrative experience in the Mayor’s Office towards the end of Carl Redus’ term and over 20 years of retail management and operations management experience.

“I think Mr. Taggart has the policies and procedures in place for urban renewal,” Griffin said, adding that she was excited about Taggart’s future as a lawyer. “From the ground up, he established everything, and I will continue with the policies and procedures he put in place with the goals and vision for urban renewal at Pine Bluff.”

Taggart said he was committed to being an executive director for two years and had just completed his third year in that position. He said the agency, which is backed by Go Forward Pine Bluff, has made progress and achieved a lot, and that the next executive director will have a “solid foundation on which to start.”

“Over the past three years, our agency has delivered on many of the promises made to the citizens of Pine Bluff, but there is still a long way to go,” Taggart said. “At this point, the agency is well equipped to accept a new executive director to carry out the urban renewal plan.

The Urban Renewal Agency is responsible for developing downtown Pine Bluff, as well as actively eliminating the blight, among other things.

Ryan Watley, CEO of Go Forward Pine Bluff, said he was excited about Taggart’s new venture to practice law at Pine Bluff.

“We appreciate his unwavering commitment to the citizens plan. His dedication has made a difference in the lives of the Pine Bluffians and helps balance our town’s narrative, ”said Watley. “He has been and will continue to be an asset to Pine Bluff.”

Watley said that with so many projects underway, Griffin’s seamless transition to lead the agency will be vital.

“Go Forward Pine Bluff is proud of the partnership with Urban Renewal and looks forward to the mark Ms. Griffin will make,” said Watley. “We have observed Ms. Griffin’s exemplary leadership during her tenure as COO. Her vision, spirit and hard work elevated the intentions of our work.”

Dill said he felt lucky that Taggart was willing to continue in the consulting role, instead of stepping down and leaving the agency “and dry.”

“He’s not that kind of person,” Dill said. “I wasn’t surprised that he wanted to keep helping because it was his baby.”

“My name is urban renewal, so this was a tough decision for me,” Taggart said. “It was a great race, a great trip.”

“I’m not going to leave,” the longtime Pine Bluff resident said. “I’m just going to do something different.”

Taggart said his salary as a manager is $ 6,100 per month and that he will be paid $ 4,800 per month as a consultant.

Griffin said her compensation was not discussed at the meeting and that she did not think about it during the announcement.

“It was a happy time for me,” said Griffin, who added that details on how the Urban Renewal Office would move forward would be worked out over the next two weeks.

Taggart said he will always remain committed to the Pine Bluff and Urban Renewal Agency revitalization program.

“If my services are needed in the future, I will gladly consider in the short term to ensure that URA stays on track to complete what we have started,” Taggart said. “I appreciate the support, I appreciate the citizens of Pine Bluff, their support over the years and their continued support.”

Director of operations Chandra Griffin (right) has been appointed interim director. Maurice Taggart (left) will remain for six months as a consultant. (Pine Bluff Commercial / Eplunus Colvin)

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