Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg’s economic director leaving; no plans to fill open position

Jackie Parker, second from left, at the ribbon-cutting for MulDer Square in February.

A senior Harrisburg official is leaving her post to work in the private sector, she confirmed today.

Jackie Parker, who has headed the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) since 2014, will report for her last day in city hall on Sept. 14.

Parker told TheBurg she is taking a job with a medical marijuana company.

Parker joined the city administration when Mayor Eric Papenfuse took office in 2014. She previously served as the mayor of Lebanon, Pa., and as deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

As the city’s DCED director, Parker was the point person for economic development projects, Papenfuse said. She managed employees in the bureaus of housing, planning, business development and parks and recreation.

Papenfuse said today that he does not plan to replace Parker. The mayor announced a city hall hiring freeze in June, but he also hopes to reorganize DCED in the wake of Parker’s departure.

He expects to prepare a reorganization plan ahead of his 2019 budget presentation in November.

“She’s been a wonderful, committed leader for the city,” Papenfuse said. “I think she’s irreplaceable.”

Parker’s duties will be split between other senior administrators in city hall, Papenfuse said. Some of them will be formally redistributed in the department’s restructuring.

The future of Parker’s department will also depend on the city’s fate in Act 47, the state oversight program for financially distressed municipalities. Harrisburg officials are currently deliberating a three-year Act 47 exit plan.

Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives is considering a bill that would allow Harrisburg to leave Act 47 and retain its current taxing authority.

The House will hold a joint public hearing on the bill later this month. But with the city’s financial future in limbo, Papenfuse does not plan to hire a new senior administrator before the end of the year.

“She’s irreplaceable, but this gives us the opportunity to restructure and create new systems,” Papenfuse said. “It will all depend on what happens in the next few months.”

One of Parker’s most significant accomplishments, according to the mayor, was her ability to leverage state agencies as partners in city projects. As an example, he pointed to the ongoing renovation of playgrounds across the city – a $2 million undertaking that was made possible by collaborations with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the state DCED.

Parker was also instrumental in producing the Reservoir Park master plan, Papenfuse said, which will guide redevelopment in that park over the next decade.

“This is a legacy that will last for a long time,” he said.

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