City names planning and economic development directors, CFO

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From left, Kristin Turkelson, Jeremiah Gracia and Molly Clarin Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The city of Grand Rapids recently announced the appointments of three top leaders following competitive national searches.

Kristin Turkelson was named planning director, Jeremiah Gracia was selected as economic development director and Molly Clarin is the new chief financial officer.

Turkelson will lead the city’s planning and community engagement around development proposals and the community’s new master plan. She also will oversee the development center, building and trade inspections and historic preservation, and serve as staff liaison to the planning commission.

“I am grateful for and excited about the opportunity to serve as the city’s planning director,” Turkelson said. “This is a pivotal time for our city, and despite the inevitable challenges ahead of us, we have a solid foundation to build upon. The upcoming rewrite of our master plan gives us an opportunity to connect, listen and create a path forward as we continue to work together to ensure we are an inclusive and resilient community.

Turkelson served as interim planning director since September 2019 after the departure of Suzanna Schultz. She previously was the city’s assistant planning director, joining the organization in 2013. Before that, she was planning director for the city of Grand Haven. Turkelson is a member of the American Planning Association and the Michigan Association of Planning. She has a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Eastern Michigan University.

“Ms. Turkelson distinguished herself as interim planning director and rose to the top in a competitive national search,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “She has earned the respect of staff, the planning commission and community stakeholders.”

As Grand Rapids’ economic development director, Gracia will lead the implementation of the city’s equitable economic development plan; manage real estate development relationships; engage in critical external local, regional and statewide partnerships; and participate with teams that are responsible for placemaking in business districts.

Gracia said he is looking forward to helping the city implement the priorities outlined in its strategic plan.

“Doing so is vital to providing economic prosperity and affordability for all as a result of our economic development efforts,” Gracia said. “The economic development team looks forward to moving the needle on this in collaboration with business and community partners.”

Gracia has 15 years of economic development experience and, most recently, served as senior economic development administrator for the city of Dublin, Ohio — a suburb of Columbus. There, his focus was on business retention and expansion programs, domestic and international business attraction, and managing the deployment of Dublin’s fiber optic system.

Before joining the city of Dublin, Gracia worked for the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance and rose to the rank of vice president of business development. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and ethnic studies and a master’s degree in public administration from Bowling Green State University.

He also possesses the International Development Council’s Certified Economic Developer accreditation and served as president and board member of the Ohio Economic Development Association.

As CFO, Clarin will provide leadership and strategic direction for fiscal services. She will assist the city manager with the development of the proposed annual budget and five-year fiscal plan, provide revenue forecasts and manage the city’s overall finances. She also will provide financial direction and oversight to department directors within the fiscal service group — assessor, budget, income tax and purchasing — based on policies established by the city commission.

“I am committed to helping our organization further develop the strategic plan, which already has proven to be a helpful guide in creating the budget,” Clarin said. “It also will inform how we rebuild to be even more resilient and agile in the future.”

Clarin has served as interim chief financial officer since November 2019. She previously was the city’s fiscal services manager, joining the organization in 2015. In that role, she oversaw the financial operations of departmental business offices, utilities and enterprises and the issuance of water and sewer bonds, among many other duties. She previously served as a utility financial officer and financial analyst.

Before joining the city, Clarin worked as finance manager at the city of Anchorage, Alaska, where she received the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. She has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska.

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