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Cottage Grove to pick Prior Lake official for economic development post

The Cottage Grove City Council is poised to select a Prior Lake official to fill Cottage Grove's top economic development position, completing the hiring process quicker than expected.

The council is scheduled to approve Wednesday the hiring of Danette Parr, who currently serves as Prior Lake's community development and natural resources director. She would serve as Cottage Grove economic development director. The appointment is part of the agenda for the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Parr was among candidates that Cottage Grove officials interviewed last week for the position previously called community development director as they seek a staff member to aggressively court economic development to the city.

Parr said she has been with Prior Lake nearly seven years but lives in St. Paul and is familiar with Cottage Grove. She told the Bulletin that she was attracted to the Cottage Grove position because of what she described as "immense" economic development opportunities in the city.

Former director Howard Blin resigned his post at the end of March following the city council's decision to alter the focus of the community development director staff position to emphasize economic development.

The decision to part ways with Blin, who was hired by the city in 2005 to head the Community Development Department, was reached at a meeting, closed to the public in late-December, Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said. His departure was not noted at any recent City Council meetings, which are meetings Blin usually would attend during his tenure.

Blin came on board in the midst of a building boom in Cottage Grove. He "leaves on great terms," Bailey said. But, with housing growth still painfully slow and economic growth still stagnant, officials decided a change in focus at that staff position was needed, he said.

Planning "was (Blin's) forte," Bailey said. But with two full-time senior planners on staff, he said the city wanted to shift the responsibilities of the community development director position from one focused primarily on community planning to "almost a recruiter for business."

City officials early this year had discussed hiring an economic development consultant. By shifting the focus of the city's community development director position, Cottage Grove eliminates that need, Bailey said.

"The belief was that the city needs someone who can go out and market the city," Bailey said.

City administrator Ryan Schroeder said officials sifted through roughly 35 applicants for the open position, and city officials interviewed five candidates in a closed session Saturday. Parr said she had met informally with Schroeder prior to the formal interview.

Council members had planned to narrow the field further before interviewing finalists publicly before the full council, but reached a consensus in support of Parr following the Saturday interviews.

Assuming the council formally approves her hiring Wednesday, Parr said she plans to start in Cottage Grove May 31.

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