Lifelong Resident Hired to Oversee City's Downtown
Natalie Rankine was hired Monday night as director of Wyandotte's Downtown Development Authority.
The city’s downtown area has a new director and cheerleader, all rolled into one.
Natalie Rankine, the city’s special projects coordinator, was appointed Monday night as the director of the city’s Downtown Development Authority.
She will continue to coordinate events and programs for the downtown area, as well as will concentrate on economic development and marketing initiatives.
Rankine, a lifelong Wyandotte resident, said she couldn’t be happier with the appointment.
“I’m delighted,” she said. “I’m excited about moving forward. I think there is a lot of work to do. There’s no question.”
Rankine replaces Brandon Westcott, who resigned last month after being on the job for two years.
DDA chairwoman Patt Slack said Westcott resigned for personal reasons. Westcott did not return an e-mail sent to his personal account seeking comment for this story.
Rankine initially declined the offer to accept the job as it was a full-time position and she has long had a stipulation that she only works part-time due to wanting to be home with her two children.
After some discussion, she said, city officials were willing to allow her to work 30 hours a week, which will satisfy the needs of both her and the city.
“I’m very happy to have this job,” she said. “I feel very lucky that they are going to work around my schedule with the kids because that’s really important to me. I know that most people don’t bring that up during a job interview, but that is really important to me."
Rankine began as a volunteer with the city, serving on the Wyandotte Beautification Commission. She then was offered the special projects position in October 2008. She is a licensed architect and quit her job in that field to spend more time with her children.
She’s been able to use those talents since working for the city, however. One of her many projects was the Purple Heart Memorial Garden.
“I designed the garden as a volunteer and raised $250,000 for the project as a volunteer, but I completed the technical specifications and managed the construction of the project and coordinated the dedication ceremony last spring as an employee,” she said.
Rankine also designed the masonry base for the totem pole, as well as designed welcome signage for the city. She also creates the banners that hang downtown, as well as on the clock tower. Most of the posters and advertising materials, including the city’s pocket and wall calendars, also are her creations.
Rankine is a 1990 graduate of Roosevelt High School and holds bachelor degrees from Lawrence Technological University. She serves on the board of directors of the Dearborn Youth Symphony.
She received a 25 percent pay increase with the new position, now earning $25 an hour, for 30 hours a week. Annually, she’ll make $39,000.
The DDA will fund 25 hours a week for Rankine’s position, with the city picking up the additional five hours a week to cover her continuing work with updating the city’s website and other miscellaneous tasks outside of the downtown area.
This comes as a cost savings to the city, as the former director’s salary was $52,000, plus benefits. Rankine will not receive benefits.
Coupled with the cost savings is Rankine’s work ethic, which will net the city even more, officials said.
“If you know Natalie Rankine, you know that 30 hours is going to get us 50,” said Mayor Joe Peterson, who also sits on the DDA.
The DDA chairwoman echoed that praise.
“Natalie will give us a lot more for our money than what we’re paying her,” Slack said.
Officials are still deciding what to do with the money that is being saved. One idea is to hire someone to market the available properties downtown, Slack said.
With Rankine now in charge, the DDA director’s office will be moving out of City Hall and into the historic Burns Home, which is where Rankine worked as special projects coordinator.
She said it makes sense to keep her position there as other city employees in charge of marketing and downtown initiatives work there as well.
The DDA agreed to spend $700 to update the signage outside of the Burns Home to designate it also as the DDA office and another $2,500 to purchase Rankine a new desktop computer and software licenses.
“We’re truly getting a steal here,” Peterson said. “I can’t even tell you how excited I am to have Natalie on board.”