(UPDATE: The story has been updated to note Kiaira May is the first African American woman, not first woman, to hold the role as was previously incorrectly noted by the Flint Downtown Development Authority in an announcement on the move.)
FLINT, MI — Flint’s Downtown Development Authority has hired a new executive director and made history in the process.
Kiaira May, who has worked at Quicken Loans and Bedrock Real Estate in Detroit, was unanimously named to the post by the DDA Board of Directors and started her work this week, the DDA said in a news release Wednesday, June 16.
A Wayne State University graduate, May becomes the first African American woman to ever lead the DDA, which was established in 1977 and which promotes the revitalization of the city’s core and manages paid downtown parking.
Martha Aills was the first woman to serve in the role in the mid-1990′s, per MLive-The Flint Journal files.
Former DDA director Gerard Burnash, who had served in the position for several years, told The Journal in a message that he was “relieved of his duties” as of April 1.
Flint Director of Economic Development Khalfani Stephens had most recently served as DDA executive director on a temporary basis, according to DDA Board of Directors’ meeting minutes.
“Flint’s downtown is full of energy,” May said in a statement released by the DDA. “I am excited to work with and support the businesses and people who continue to bring public art, music, and festivals to Flint while also activating the city’s unique indoor and outdoor spaces.
“Flint is known nationally for its history of producing talented artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creative people. I look forward to helping showcase and celebrate all of those talents while making Flint a regional destination for visitors interested in vibrant culture, entertainment, and thriving businesses,” May’s statement says.
In her previous work, May developed partnerships with influential organizations in Detroit, including the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Gucci Changemakers Fund, Design Core Detroit, and the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Michigan, according to the DDA announcement of her appointment.
Those partnerships helped create more traffic to local businesses in key districts, showcased art and cultural exhibitions and displays, and created community dialogues and panels, the organization said.
The Journal could not immediately reach Mayor Sheldon Neeley for comment on the DDA appointment, which will be sent to the City Council for its consent.
In a statement from the DDA, Neeley called May “a tremendous asset to our growing downtown.”
“I’m proud to say we were able to find the most qualified candidate in a historic move for the DDA. As the first female DDA director, Kiaira brings to Flint her passion and desire to continue making Flint a regional destination for art, music, sports, culture, and unique community festivals.”