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Assuming great things for Fleming, ONB

10.10.2011 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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David Fleming in North Birmingham, October 2010. acnatta/bhamterminal.comThe first time I met David Fleming, I was sitting across the table from him for about an hour on the tenth floor of Two North Twentieth interviewing for the job that would eventually bring me to Birmingham. I spent most of that time wondering just what this guy thought of this kid from The Bronx living in Savannah, GA who was crazy enough to want to work for his new nonprofit start-up.

A month later, we hustled into the conference room at the Young & Vann Building downtown as the city’s Design Review Committee meeting started – beginning a 2 ½ year working relationship as his first hire for Main Street Birmingham (MSB).

I learned a lot while there and had a lot of fun too. We agreed about what needed to be done more often than not; it was often when it came to what we knew we could actually get away with where we’d often differ. The fact I was able to openly disagree with my boss – at least behind closed doors – was something I was extremely grateful for. I was also thankful for the chance to work for someone who truly loved his hometown and wanted to do right by it – a passion that still influences how I approach this website long after my resignation from MSB to launch it in 2007.

When news of Michael Calvert’s retirement and the resulting search for a new president and CEO of Operation New Birmingham (ONB) became public, a part of me just knew David would apply for the job. He did, and earlier today I learned along with everyone else that he’d been offered and accepted the position – effective November 1.

It’s a big day for the future of the city of Birmingham – or at least it is to me. I believe the ONB board sent a clear signal with this decision – one that suggests they value the importance of small business development as a significant part of the revitalization of the city center. It also suggests that while they may recognize Fleming’s familiarity with how things have been done during his previous tour of duty with ONB, they’re willing to listen to someone who may have ideas about how to tweak some of those policies and procedures to better serve small businesses and grow the residential community – both vital to realizing the hopes of many not just in the central business district but the greater downtown area.

These are assumptions – and David’s favorite reminder to me was “never assume.” The thought of just what could happen if some of those changes that could be made to make ONB more effective were applied to MSB initiatives makes me want to assume the best though – for David and the city he enabled me to move to more than seven years ago.

Waiting to see if some of those assumptions become reality will be the hard part…

André Natta is bhamterminal.com‘s stationmaster. He served as senior coordinator for Main Street Birmingham from September 2004 until March 2007.

Photo: David Fleming at North Birmingham ecoscape dedication, October 2010 via archive.

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