Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that Rodney Stokes will be the administration's point man on working with cities to help them become more vibrant and inviting by enhancing their existing resources. Stokes, who currently serves as Department of Natural Resources director, will leave that position to join the Executive Office.
"Michigan's cities are brimming with unique natural and man-made assets that can be cultivated in ways which attract families and visitors, retain talented workers, encourage investment and enhance our overall quality of life," Snyder said. "Rodney has the talent and experience to make that happen. His expertise in the areas of natural resources, outdoor recreation, policy development and civic engagement make him well suited to partner with cities in these efforts. A strong Michigan needs strong cities. Rodney's work will be key to that success and we're fortunate to have a person of his caliber at the forefront of this critical initiative."
As the governor's special adviser for city placemaking, Stokes will work with cities on projects such as ensuring the availability of quality green space and enhancing recreational opportunities.
"I am excited to take a lead role in fostering more vibrant urban communities," Stokes said. "I firmly believe that great states have great cities, just as great states nurture and protect their natural resources. This appointment affords me one more opportunity to make Michigan a more dynamic, inviting place to be."
The governor cited Stokes' leadership in two exciting Detroit projects as examples of his commitment to community development. The state's partnership with the city of Detroit to restore Belle Isle, as well as the DNR's plan to assist in the renovation of the historic Globe Building on the city's east riverfront highlight the opportunities that exist in cities across Michigan. In fact, Annex E of the consent agreement between the state and Detroit highlights some of the good land stewardship initiatives that are under way to assist in the city's revitalization.
Snyder emphasized the need for Michigan and its communities to adopt a "placemaking" mindset in his March 2011 Special Message to the Legislature on Local Government Reform. Placemaking recognizes that economic development and community development go hand in hand. It is a multifaceted approach that encourages a fresh look at the potential use of assets such as parks, downtowns, waterfronts, neighborhoods and buildings.
Stokes was one of the governor's first cabinet appointees after his election in 2010. Stokes began his professional career with the DNR in 1977 and held several leadership positions within the agency, including service as chief of the Parks and Recreation Division, legislative liaison, chief of staff, acting chief of the Law Enforcement Division and chief of the Office of Science and Policy.
He also served as interim director and deputy director of the Detroit Recreation Department and as director of the Gainesville, Fla., Recreation and Parks Department.
Stokes and his wife Linda live in East Lansing.
His appointment is effective July 9. A new DNR director will be announced once appointed.