SOUTH BEND — The Town Leader Economic Engagement and Empowerment Team is the latest in a series of officials to leave key positions within the Department of Community Investment.
Alkeyna Aldridge, a city employee since January 2016, was appointed to lead the empowerment team in December 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Aldridge resigned from his post the first week of August, a city spokeswoman confirmed Friday.
Aldridge told The Tribune that she quit for personal and financial reasons, namely that she needed a higher salary. Working for the municipal government during the pandemic has been difficult for two years, she added.
City officials declined to comment on her departure beyond stating that Aldridge “voluntarily resigned to take up a position with another entity” and “we wish her well and thank her for her service to the city.” .
Aldridge started a job as human resources manager with the South Bend Empowerment Zone the first week of August, she told The Tribune on Friday. The non-profit organization is independent of South Bend Community School Corp. but was created in 2019 to improve student achievement, growth, and “holistic metrics” like attendance and suspension rates at Navarre Middle School and four West Side feeder elementary schools.
A native of South Bend, Aldridge went to Washington High School and studied sociology at the University of Notre Dame. She worked as an assistant clerk for two years and previously worked in recruiting at Notre Dame.
The Engagement and Economic Empowerment team, which exists within the Department of Community Investment, provides grants to neighborhood organizations and oversees programs such as pop-up food markets intended to benefit underserved neighborhoods. Its goal is to “give all residents access to economic opportunity and meaningful civic participation,” according to the city’s website.
“This role was built for me,” Aldridge said of his former position. “It was so hard for me to walk away from it.”
Aldridge’s resignation follows Santiago Garces’ decision in March to resign as leader from the Department of Community Investment. Another senior member of the department, former director of neighborhood services and enforcement Marlaina Johns, resigned in May after more than eight years with the city.
Former mayoral spokesman Caleb Bauer has served as the department’s acting director since May.
The Department of Community Investment has approximately 90 employees. The department’s 2022 goals are “to install renewable energy and energy efficiency infrastructure, (support) affordable housing, repair homes in need, and tear down commercial blight citywide,” according to a press release from the city.
City said at the end of March that they would start looking for a permanent replacement for Garces. The salary cap for the director role is approximately $118,000.
Officials declined to comment Friday on the progress of the search or say when Aldridge might be replaced.
South Bend is experiencing above-average turnover among city workers, City Comptroller Dan Parker said Wednesday during a Presentation of the 2023 budget.
More than 100 positions are open among nearly 1,100 budgeted positions. Increasingly competitive wage rates and low unemployment across the region are factors in the difficulty of hiring and retaining staff, Parker said.
To address the problem, next year’s budget includes 3% pay increases for non-union staff – with potentially higher pay increases for union members such as police officers – and a doubling of the bonus. annual $1,000 granted to employees who live within the city limits of South Bend. .
About 8%, or $33 million, of the 2023 budget is expected to go to the Department of Community Investment.