Housing Complex

Mysterious Switcharoo at Walter Reed

Last Thursday, residents of the Shepherd Park, Brightwood, and Takoma neighborhoods gathered to get the rundown on the final re-use plan for the now-shuttered Walter Reed Army Medical Center. But the guy who's been running the show since it started, Eric Jenkins, wasn't there—the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development had quietly let him go the previous week.

Why? I dunno (at least on the record). Officially, DMPED doesn't comment on personnel matters. Jenkins was reasonably popular among the citizen members of the formal body set up to manage Walter Reed's transition. "It was a shock to everybody," says Alice Giancola. "It was uniform among community members that he was doing a good job."

Jenkins, in response to an inquiry, sent over a statement. "While there could have been a smoother shift for the project, my transition away from the project has been in the works for quite some time," he wrote, before launching into his achievements and accolades (to wit, 2011 Washington Business Journal Top 40 under 40 Professional and 2010 EnVest Foundation Top 40 under 40 Professional). Jenkins says he'll "take these experiences and achievements to the private sector where I will focus on large master plan developments and energy and sustainability solutions."

The palace intrigue probably doesn't matter much to you, dear reader. Especially since DMPED had someone ready to take his place: Martine Combal, who's run the Department of Housing and Community Development's property acquisition and development division since 2008, and before was a project manager with DMPED. So there won't be much disruption to the process.

To me, it's interesting because Combal will be one of the highest-ranking women within the city's economic development agency. Real estate is a very dude-heavy discipline, and although 27 out of DMPED's 52 employees are women, all of its leaders—Deputy Mayor, three Directors, chief of staff, communications director—are guys. (Even under the last director, Valerie Santos, most of the top staff were men). In that environment, any infusion of estrogen is welcome.

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