Regional center director to step down
Gary Stith to take new job with county Department of General Services; officials begin search for replacement
After eight years as director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, Gary Stith will resign to accept a management position with the Montgomery County Department of General Services.
Stith, who began as director in 2001 after six years as manager of planning and project implementation with the Silver Spring Regional Center, will serve his last day Feb. 26 before beginning his new job within General Services' Special Projects division, which operates within the county's Chief Administrative Office.
"I wasn't looking for a new job," Stith said, adding that he had been contacted by county Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine about a management position related to planning in the county. "… It was tough making the decision to leave Silver Spring because I'm emotionally invested in Silver Spring."
Stith has worked for the county since 1992 after several planning jobs in the Midwest as well as a stint with the Peace Corps in Venezuela. A resident of South Silver Spring, where he plans to continue to live while commuting to his new job in Gaithersburg, Stith has seen Silver Spring through its major revitalization.
The redevelopment "isn't done yet," making it difficult to leave the job now, Stith said.
"I wrote my acceptance memo, put it in an e-mail and it sat there for 20 minutes before I could send it," Stith said.
Stith's devotion to Silver Spring runs deep, evident by his extra duties as the webmaster of SilverSpringDowntown.com and his interest in implementing his own passion for theater and the arts to the downtown, said Susan Hoffmann, marketing and special events manager with the regional center.
"I know it was very a difficult decision for him because he loves Silver Spring and it is in his heart," Hoffmann said.
Stith made the public announcement of his departure Monday night at the monthly meeting of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Shortly after, he was holding up large diagrams of the new Silver Spring Library, helping residents at the meeting understand its design and debating planning officials over what is right for downtown Silver Spring.
"I was surprised and disappointed," said Darian Unger, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Board. "I've really enjoyed working with Gary, he knows a lot about Silver Spring.
"We will have to try and make up for the loss of his expertise."
As part of his position dealing with special projects in the county, Stith would still be involved in developments like the new library and the Studio Plaza mixed-use project planned for Fenton Village.
"Gary came to mind because of his skills and experience in planning and the development process but also Gary has strong skills dealing with the community," said Firestine, who hired Stith. "Gary was the perfect person for this job."
In addition to working with special development projects, Stith will also handle all master planning issues and redevelopment officers in the county will report to him, Firestine said.
Firestine said finding Stith's successor as director of the regional center could take a few months and the CAO hoped to appoint an acting director soon to handle duties in the interim. A regional center director position must be appointed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and confirmed by County Council, Firestine said.
Whoever Stith's replacement is they will have big shoes to fill and the task of meshing with a "well-oiled machine" at the regional center, Hoffmann said. With Stith's departure, Hoffmann will be the longest-tenured employee at the regional center having been through the intensive redevelopment process alongside her director.
The two saw Silver Spring through a drawn-out negotiation process for a downtown attraction that eventually resulted in 110 community meetings to plan City Place Mall and City Plaza along Ellsworth Drive. In addition to ongoing projects like the new civic building and transit center, Hoffmann was pleased Stith would at least be in the county to see Silver Spring's ongoing rise to prominence.
"We came out the other end with what is arguably one of the greatest successes of redevelopment projects in metropolitan Washington," Hoffmann said. "… We look at it as proud parents."