City Champion

 In the late 1950s and early 60s, Erich Brenn graced the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show with his act of spinning plates. Using thin wooden poles, the Austrian would set the tableware spinning, working to keep them aloft while “Flight of the Bumblebee” played at a frantic pace.

It’s an act Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) executive director Kelley Coures says he relates to.

“Sometimes I feel like that guy,” he says with a smile, “trying to keep all these plates spinning up there.”

A graduate of Harrison High School and Indiana State University Evansville (now University of Southern Indiana), Coures found himself in the DMD managing federal funds after taking an early retirement from Springleaf Financial, where he had worked for 31 years, in 2012. Two years later, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke would ask Coures to take on a new position.

“He said, ‘I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,’” he says. “The good news was he wanted me to be executive director. The bad news, he said, was I was going to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Coures, who served as an intern in the DMD in 1979 under former mayor Russ Lloyd Sr., enjoys working with community residents, city leaders, and local businesses, making the long hours just another aspect of the job he doesn’t mind. But being head of the DMD is more than standing at a podium, sharing the next development project with the city.

“It’s leveraging dollars and finding developers who can make projects happen,” he says. “The job really is about several different things; it’s about people, it’s about making sure what the city does is good for people.”

In the last two years, Coures’s spinning plates have included new development projects at Haynie’s Corner Arts District; the progress of Downtown; the North Main Complete Street Project; and setting up Evansville’s land bank to deal with housing blight, a project Coures is especially proud of. By leveraging federal money and organizing private investments, the DMD is able to bring property back to the city’s tax rolls and create jobs — two things that strengthen the city.

“I feel very fortunate to have this job at this time,” says Coures. “Because you’re connected to everything; you’re connected to all the good things.”

For more information about the Department of Metropolitan Development, call 812-436-7823.

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