INSET BELOW: Jeff Costello
By Jane Smith
The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency won’t miss a beat when its executive director Diane Colonna leaves this month.
The agency’s assistant director, Jeff Costello, will take over the very next work day.
At the agency’s Dec. 11 board meeting, Costello was appointed by a 6-1 vote. Two commissioners had wanted to see a search process for the job to ensure the agency made a good selection.
“I believe Jeff is capable,” said CRA board member Cathy Balestriere, “but I also believe in a process.” She wanted to do a statewide search, but she voted with her fellow commissioners to promote Costello.
CRA board member Annette Gray insisted a nationwide search was needed for what she calls the “second phase of the CRA.”
Redeveloping the east side of Atlantic Avenue with its proximity to the beach was “relatively easy.” West Atlantic, Gray said, would be more challenging. It requires someone with a “cultural sensitivity” to not do things the way they have always been done. The area has many socio-economic challenges, she said.
Board member Joseph Bernadel started off the discussion by saying he prefers to promote from within.
Community organizer Chuck Ridley agreed.
“Given the amount of transition that Delray is going through, there has to be someone with institutional knowledge,” he said. Ridley was at the meeting because the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition’s agreement with the CRA was up for renewal. The coalition is seeking a full-time person within the CRA to work on West Atlantic projects.
Commissioner Paul Zacks called the executive director’s replacement the board’s “most important decision this year.”
Costello, 51, will negotiate a salary package with the CRA attorney to be voted on at the Jan. 8 CRA board meeting. His salary is $112,500, Colonna makes $136,200. According to the board direction, the divorced father of two middle-school boys can expect about a 5 percent salary increase.
He graduated from Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in environmental planning.
He started as a planner for Delray Beach in 1988, left in 2005 when he was assistant planning director to work for a private company, New Urban Planning.
In 2007, he missed the community planning aspect so much that he went to work for the Delray Beach CRA as its assistant director.
At the end of the Dec. 11 board meeting, most of the commissioners wished Colonna good luck while congratulating Costello.
Colonna called her time with the CRA “magical” and thanked her staff, saying the team was hard working and talented.
Community organizer Ridley soon was standing and clapping, leading to a standing ovation for Colonna.