Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority Staff Bios
Laura Brunner was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority in December 2011. As its leader, Laura sets strategic direction for the regional economic development agency. She is primarily responsible for leadership of the Port Authority’s county-wide redevelopment and revitalization activities, working in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and with other economic development and community organizations, to create lasting regional momentum.
Laura is a seasoned real estate development executive, responsible for complex urban redevelopment projects that have increased jobs and opportunities in neighborhoods such as Clifton Heights, Madisonville, Green Township, and Avondale. As a senior executive for a regional development firm, she directed all aspects of business development functions which led to a variety of enterprise- expanding projects for clients such as Medpace, University of Cincinnati, The Christ Hospital, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Laura’s expertise in inclusion increased participation by disadvantaged companies on construction projects. Through her determination for improving social equity in the real estate industry, Laura created avenues that led to majority ownership of The Offices at Vernon Manor by African American investors. Laura also served as the first female managing principal of Cassidy Turley’s Cincinnati and Dayton operations.
Laura is the recipient of numerous awards for business leadership, community development and her support of economic inclusion initiatives. She received the President’s Award from the NAACP, and won the Merlin G. Pope, Jr. Diversity Leadership award in 2011 for her contributions in this area. She is a member of the XIV Class of Leadership Cincinnati.
Laura’s past and present board participation includes Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Christ College School of Nursing, Dan Beard Council Boy Scouts of America, Mercantile Library, and Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). She graduated from Indiana University with honors with a degree in accounting, and spent 15 years in the public accounting industry.
Darin Hall directs all facets of real estate development and neighborhood revitalization for the Port Authority, with an emphasis on restoring value to sites to advance the growth of the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Hall’s comprehensive experience includes a successful track record of community development projects, in addition to more than a decade in the commercial banking industry. He joined the Port Authority in 2012, and in 2015 was promoted to EVP to provide strategic oversight to the quasi-governmental economic development agency and ensure equity, inclusion and fairness permeate the Port Authority’s revitalization work in neighborhoods.
Darin relocated to Cincinnati from Atlanta, where he worked for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Sustainable Neighborhood Development Strategies, Inc. He directed revitalization of disadvantaged communities, including reversing substantial disinvestment in Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood, through an emphasis on procuring capital and investing in key neighborhood assets. As Deputy Director of Neighborhood Transformation for the Casey Foundation, Darin oversaw day-to-day operations of the Preservation of Pittsburgh initiative, Atlanta’s first large-scale residential revitalization effort based on principles of affordability, energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental stewardship. He also provided leadership in the advancement of the Atlanta Civic site’s Neighborhood Transformation strategy, working collaboratively with the City’s Department of Housing, the Fulton County/City of Atlanta Land Bank, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as financial institutions, foundations, and community stakeholders to manage the acquisition, land banking, renovation, and development of real estate purchased.
Prior to his work with the Casey Foundation, Darin founded DCH Capital Group to provide investment banking services to businesses and high performing non-profit organizations. Hall also worked in roles as a Senior Merger and Acquisitions Analyst for The Coca-Cola Company, as well as Portfolio Manager. He began his career working in commercial banking for more than 10 years, holding positions with Wells Fargo and Bank of Boston, his last role being a Vice President for the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan in the Atlanta office. In 2017, Darin was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cincinnati Branch Board of Directors. He also serves on the boards of Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky (LISC); the Cincinnati Development Fund; and the African American Chamber of Commerce; as well the Episcopal Church Foundation of Southwest Ohio. He is a member of United Way’s Tocqueville Society. Darin is a graduate of Leadership Cincinnati Class XXXVII, and has served on the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Cincinnati Management Committee and the ULI East Central Regional Product Council. He earned a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in business administration from Clark Atlanta University.
Susan E. Thomas works to ensure effective efforts in organizational management, program services, governance, and public policy, in keeping with the Port Authority’s overall mission of creating prosperity in Hamilton County through public land investment and stewardship.
Susan serves as a senior officer responsible for providing leadership on a broad range of strategy, policy, and governance matters. Her major responsibilities include development of programs that directly address abandoned, foreclosed and underutilized properties and other conditions that prevent Hamilton County residents from living in sustainable neighborhoods and from participating in economic prosperity.
Susan helps set strategic direction for both the Port Authority and the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corporation (LandBank). The LandBank actively owns and manages more than 500 properties throughout Hamilton County neighborhoods and partners with local communities, municipalities, nonprofits and developers to enhance the use of land resources and return vacant, tax-foreclosed and underutilized properties to productive use.
Susan oversees the Port Authority’s public finance program and staff. She has helped define the Port Authority’s evolution of its public finance work from primarily an issuer of conduit debt to an innovative real estate finance operation that plays a vital role within the development community.
Prior to joining the Port Authority, Susan was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley in New York. As a Vice President and Associate in the Global Capital Markets Group, she helped raise more than $11 billion in debt and equity capital for 30 national and global corporations. Susan previously served as an assistant to Cincinnati Mayor Roxanne Qualls where she focused on transportation, regional cooperation, business retention and homeownership financing.
Susan holds a BA with honors in Public Policy from Stanford University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management with a concentration in Finance. She is a development office volunteer and ambassador for both institutions. She is a long-time volunteer financial officer of Urban Land Institute Cincinnati and will serve as an adjunct instructor for the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at University of Cincinnati in spring 2016.
In her capacity as Vice President of Neighborhood Revitalization, Liz Eddy oversees neighborhood development, capital budgeting, project marketing, and data analytics for the Port Authority’s multifaceted initiatives to stabilize Hamilton County neighborhoods through strategic acquisition and repositioning of residential and commercial properties and blight removal. Liz manages a team of real estate, community development and housing professionals, dedicated to transforming underutilized real estate in a way that expands prosperity for residents and community entrepreneurs. She will continue to expand the successful REACH single-family residential rehab program in target areas.
Liz joined the Port Authority in 2016 from Village Green, where she primarily managed operations for Radius at the Banks, downtown luxury apartment community. Among her achievements at Village Green, Liz helped structure plans and processes that resulted in meeting high project quality standards, construction milestones and financial objectives. She was instrumental in building a high-performing team. In a previous position as property manager and Assistant Area Director, Liz achieved Certified Sales Consultant designation and was repeatedly recognized as a top company performer. Liz earned a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, and expects to complete certification in Geographic Information Systems from University of Cincinnati in 2017. She is actively involved in Give Back Cincinnati and Give Back Cincinnati Abroad.
Melissa Johnson is an economic development specialist with a 19-year track record of improving land assets for redevelopment and the attraction of private investment. She is responsible for defining and executing the Port Authority’s Industrial Revitalization Strategy, a key component of its board-driven Strategic Vision 2022. Under this strategy, the Port Authority is facilitating the redevelopment of 500 acres of urban industrial property to attract advanced manufacturing operations. Melissa works with manufacturing companies and regional economic development partners to ready sites for development including assemblage, demolition, remediation, and site certification. Melissa coordinates the promotion of assets for targeted industry clusters, including aerospace, polymers, automotive, and food processing. She also works to define and implement the Port Authority’s role as it relates to regional freight transportation assets.
Melissa previously worked as a member of the Port Authority’s development finance team, where she marketed the Port Authority’s public finance programs and technical assistance services to real estate developers, brokers, incentives consultants, municipalities and economic development corporations to identify and vet suitable projects. She also has led environmental remediation activities for some of Hamilton County’s largest brownfield sites. Nearly 200 acres have been redeveloped due to Port Authority efforts, with an estimated $1.35 billion of annual economic impact.
Melissa serves as program director for the Greater Cincinnati Foreign Trade Zone (GCFTZ), the federal grantee of zones 46 & 47 in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Melissa is a member of the Urban Land Institute; Central Ohio River Business Association (CORBA); Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals; Council of Minority Transportation Officials; and the UC Real Estate Roundtable. She serves on the boards of NAIOP Cincinnati and the European American Chamber of Commerce; and is a Hamilton County Environmental Action Commissioner as appointed by the Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Melissa served as the Economic Development Administrator for the City of Hamilton, Ohio, during its most challenging decade of repositioning for recovery after losing legacy industry and thousands of jobs.
Melissa holds a BA in Urban and Regional Planning and a BA in Geography from Miami University, and earned certification as a project manager through Xavier’s Leadership Center.
As Director of Communication Strategy, Gail provides editorial, media relations, issues management and creative services to the Port Authority. She spent the last decade directing corporate marketing and public relations projects primarily in the commercial real estate, community development and construction industries. Gail has worked in Cincinnati journalism for years, holding editorial leadership positions in the newsrooms of the Cincinnati Business Courier and the Business Record. Gail serves on the board of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati.
She is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism, and an emphasis in economics. She is originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
Todd Castellini joined the Port Authority in 2016 in a new position that expands the Port’s public finance practice expertise and relationships within the Greater Cincinnati business community, where Todd successfully established a track record of delivering excellent solutions and service to clients at Fifth Third Bank. Todd most recently was Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager, at Fifth Third, where he worked for more than 16 years in a variety of client-focused positions. At the Port Authority, Todd has primary responsibility for business development and executing the Port Authority’s pipeline of projects.
Todd holds a BS in Marketing from Xavier University. He has long-standing commitment to civic engagement, most recently as a community volunteer for People Working Cooperatively, Girls on the Run of Cincinnati, Inc., and Cardinal Pacelli School. His community volunteer service includes board positions for Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, where he also serves on the financial committee; and West Clermont Educational Foundation.
Rick Hudson joined the Port Authority as Director of Accounting and Finance in January 2014. Rick spent the last 14 years at Cincinnati Bell most recently as Assistant Controller of the company’s largest division, where he oversaw financial reporting, managed multi-million dollar budgets and transitioned the accounting department to a global workforce. During his tenure at Cincinnati Bell, he also held roles as Director of Revenue Accounting and Manager of Incentive Compensation.
Prior to Cincinnati Bell, Rick was Director of Asset and Liability Management for Student Loan Funding, leading efforts to produce surplus revenue and reduce risk. Rick has broad financial accounting experience that includes fund accounting, debt covenant compliance, cash flow management, and migrating accounting systems.
Rick holds an MBA from Xavier University and a BBA from Ohio University and has been an Ohio certified CPA since 1995. Additionally, Rick participated in Cincinnati Bell’s transformation of Taft High School and served as a board member and Treasurer for Art Machine, a non-profit dedicated to fostering creativity in youths.
Deborah Robb joined the Port Authority in 2004. A long-time housing and neighborhood advocate, Deborah is the Port Authority’s program director of the Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corporation (HURC), a 501(c)(3) Ohio nonprofit corporation focused on community housing improvement and, in particular, the renovation of homes in low and moderate-income areas. She leads economic inclusion efforts, which are woven into the fabric of every Port Authority project. She serves as the listing and sales agent for all Port Authority residential properties.
She earned a BA in Communication Arts from the University of Cincinnati, where she was a minority scholarship recipient. She is also a graduate of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati African American Leadership Development Program (Class III), Leadership Cincinnati (Class XXX), Project Blueprint, and Turner Construction School of Construction Management. Deborah is a 2014 recipient of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission Merlin G. Pope, Jr. award for leadership in diversity.
Kim Cargile joined the Port Authority as accounting manager in January 2013. Kim is responsible for general accounting, payroll and compliance functions for both the Port Authority and Hamilton County Landbank agencies, working on projects related to real estate as well as general operations. Kim has successfully led the transition of our payroll services provider, and is working to refine reporting standards to better reflect new business lines.
Kim most recently worked at First Industrial Realty Trust, Inc., where she served as regional accountant, responsible for coordinating accounting activity and preparing financial reports for the Cincinnati regional office. She also gained early-career experience in real estate at her family’s general contracting business – Wm. Cargile Contractor, Inc.
Kim earned a bachelor of science degree in administrative management at University of Cincinnati.
Jamie Barron brings more than six years of experience to her role with the Port Authority, where she oversees projects and programs that facilitate proactive engagement with a variety of audiences in a way that informs and encourages greater participation in our work. She oversees the Port Authority’s website, newsletters, and manages marketing projects for the organization’s managed entities, including the Hamilton County Landbank and Greater Cincinnati Foreign Trade Zone.
Jamie most recently served as Marketing Manager at Danis, managing a multistate marketing operation from the construction management firm’s Dayton Ohio location, where her role included project management and creative direction. At Danis, Jamie was responsible for all marketing materials and collateral, client-facing communication, and project proposal coordination.
Jamie earned a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in Architecture from University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). She is an active member of Greater Cincinnati Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS).
Tom Leibham joined the Port Authority in the newly created position of Industrial Development Manager in September 2016. In this role, he manages due diligence, demolition, remediation, and site work for the portfolio of Port Authority properties acquired and assembled to support the creation of new job-ready sites attractive to advanced manufacturing operations. Tom’s career in project management for large-scale municipal construction and capital improvement projects spans two decades and includes proficiency coordinating with multiple federal, state and local agencies with regard to permitting, regulations and compliance matters. At the Port Authority, his role includes managing the bidding process, ensuring highest compliance with the Port Authority’s Economic Inclusion Policy.
Tom most recently worked for the State of Ohio for the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission in Columbus, as a project manager. The agency is responsible for guiding capital construction projects for state agencies, and state-support universities/colleges. Prior to that, Tom held positions of increasing responsibility at the City of Hamilton, where he ultimately managed engineering, construction and inspection activities on the Meldahl Hydroelectric project on the Ohio River. Tom earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Technology from the University of Houston, and attended San Jacinto College.
Chris Recht serves as General Counsel for the Port Authority and outside entities managed by the Port Authority, including the Hamilton County Landbank and the HURC. As chief legal officer for the Port Authority, Chris provides legal expertise on compliance matters and corporate governance issues, ensuring compliance with all state and federal laws. He prepares contracts and agreements relating to real estate purchases/sales, land bank activities and financing and leasing arrangements.
Chris joined the Port Authority in 2012 as Counsel. He has actively guided the Landbank’s historic stabilization program, working with an advisory board to select properties, teaming with contractors to develop scopes of work, and supervising the program budget. He continues to advise municipalities and townships on nuisance properties and provides information on Landbank blight removal programs including the Neighborhood Initiative Program.
Chris is a member of the Ohio Bar Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Chris worked as a litigation attorney for a large Cincinnati law practice. Chris earned his juris doctor from Northwestern University, an MBA from UCLA, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
With a varied career anchored in financing commercial real estate and business expansion, Robert Sanders is the Port Authority’s Commercial Development Manager. At the Port Authority, Robert manages commercial development projects from inception to completion, including project budgets and pro formas, design, zoning, marketing and leasing efforts. He assists in all aspects of the pursuit of land acquisition and repurposing in alignment with the Port Authority’s Neighborhood Revitalization initiative.
Previously, Robert was SBA Development Officer at U.S. Bank in Cincinnati, where he specialized in providing financing for owner occupied commercial real estate, business acquisitions, equipment working capital, and refinancing of existing debt through the SBA program. His experience includes business lending, financial analysis and commercial real estate development. Robert earned Credit Risk Certification through Risk Management Association. He is a member of UC Real Estate Roundtable; a board member of Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati; and treasurer of The Ohio State University’s Young Scholars Program Alumni Society. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business, Business Administration/Real Estate & Urban Analysis.
Freddie N. Stevens III, Residential Development Manager
Freddie Stevens relocated from Atlanta, Ga., in 2016 to accept a newly created position at the Port Authority that focuses on housing initiatives, programs, and policies that advance the organization’s neighborhood revitalization strategy. Freddie combines his expertise in housing, housing finance, real estate development, and community engagement and advocacy to develop and manage programs and strategies that promote enduring Hamilton County neighborhoods where families feel safe, have expanded employment opportunities, and greater access to viable housing options. Working with community stakeholder groups, residents and public and private developers, Freddie orchestrates projects in alignment with community-driven plans.
Previously, Freddie was Housing Programs Manager for DeKalb County Government, where he developed and managed a variety of single-family housing programs and provided technical support to the DeKalb Regional Land Bank Authority. He has experience utilizing HUD-funded CDBG, HOME, NSP and other federally funded programs. Freddie earned a BA from Morehouse College in Business Administration, with a concentration in Banking & Finance. He has earned multiple professional real estate finance and development certifications, and intends to complete the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation from the International Economic Development Council.
Julie Banner, P.E. is senior development associate. She is a member of the Port Authority’s Industrial Revitalization team, which is responsible for redeveloping more 500 acres located in key industrial corridors in Hamilton County by 2022. Among her responsibilities are analyzing and outlining critical paths of real estate projects; project management and analysis; administering contracts; and maintaining relationships with partners, contractors, stakeholders and project investors.
Julie joined the Port Authority in 2013 as a development associate, working on both real estate development and public finance projects. She has been instrumental in project management and planning of renovation work at Fountain Square South Garage, a 396-space parking garage located underneath Cincinnati’s downtown Westin Hotel.
Megan Meyer joined the Port Authority in 2015 as Real Estate Counsel. She is experienced in all aspects of real estate and business transaction law, with a special focus on property tax foreclosure policy. At the Port Authority, Megan’s responsibilities include drafting contracts and agreements to support Port Authority projects and advising on policies around land bank programming, acquisitions, property management, and dispositions.
Megan most recently served as associate at Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson Co., L.P.A. in Cincinnati. She was an active member of the firm’s real estate group that represents owners, lenders, investors, developers, and entrepreneurs in all phases of ownership and development.
Megan earned her juris doctor from University of Notre Dame Law School. She graduated with honors from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s in Public Policy and Classics. She volunteers with the Zoning and Complete Streets committee of the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, which works to preserve and revitalize Cincinnati’s brewing heritage in Over-the-Rhine; and serves on a local Foreclosure Policy Group. She is a member of C-Change, Class 12. C-Change is a HYPE (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) leadership development program for YPs in Cincinnati. It is a program of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
Will joined the Port Authority in 2012 as a Planning Associate. Will supports the Port Authority’s neighborhood revitalization strategy through community and stakeholder engagement, property research, and mapping for small and large-scale redevelopment opportunities. Working with CDC and community partners, Will helps manage Hamilton County Land Bank programs focused on returning vacant properties to productive use. He supports the Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corporation mission through evaluation of properties for neighborhood impact.
Will earned a Bachelor of Urban Planning degree from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati. Will is a member of the American Planning Association and Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Cincinnati Emerging Leaders Program, and has served as a team mentor for the ULI/Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition.
Taylor Gruenwald joined the Port Authority in 2016 as Visual Communication Associate. A member of the Communications team, Taylor coordinates and executes graphic design and visual information for the Port Authority’s website and social media, email communication, and events. She works on projects that support the Port Authority’s proactive engagement through presentations, workshops, and meetings that encourage broad community participation.
Taylor earned a Bachelor of Science degree in City and Regional Planning from the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University, Columbus. While earning her degree, she learned essential graphic tools and techniques used for effective visual communication in planning. She attended Ohio State on the Chick Evans Scholarship, awarded to excellent students who are golf caddies. She worked at Maketewah Country Club for nine years.
Brandon Gumm joined the Port Authority in 2016 as a Development Associate. As an intern to the real estate team, Brandon proved to be a valuable addition, bringing public policy and urban planning experience alongside a focus on sustainability. Brandon earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Comparative Cultures and Politics and Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy from Michigan State University’s James Madison College of Public Affairs in 2013. He is a recent graduate of Xavier University’s Urban Sustainability and Resilience Master’s Program.
Brandon previously interned at the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation where he gained valuable insight into Cincinnati’s neighborhood revitalization efforts. He is a Board Member and Bass Singer for the Young Professionals Choral Collective based in Over-the-Rhine; he also co-leads Bootcamp Warriors fitness classes in Clifton.
Anna Ausman joined the Port Authority in 2016 as Paralegal. In this role, she supports the Port Authority’s two-attorney legal team and prepares initial drafts of legal documents related to property acquisition, ownership, management and disposition. She has gained competence in utilizing the organization’s web-based property management system that tracks the status of Port Authority and Hamilton County Landbank-owned properties for reporting.
Anna’s career is defined by positions of increasing responsibility providing legal support. Prior to joining the Port Authority, Anna worked as Paralegal/Director of Administration for Finney Law Firm, LLC, where she managed the firm’s Property Tax Valuation case work, overseeing the drafting and filing of complaints and helping prepare materials for hearings. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University.
Belinda Gilmore joined the Port Authority in 2016 as Accounting Assistant. Belinda’s responsibilities include providing a variety of accounting functions, including accounts payable and accounts receivable and providing support to key members of the Port Authority’s Accounting & Financial Management Team. Belinda also assists with new staff onboarding.
Prior to joining the Port Authority, Belinda worked as Accounts Payable Audit Clerk at UC Health, where she demonstrated exceptional attention to detail and vendor communication. Belinda attended Cincinnati State and is a life-long resident of Cincinnati’s West Side.
Joseph Hall has 13 years of experience in executive level assistance. A 2012 addition to the Port Authority, Joseph is the first point of contact for people visiting the Port Authority or the Hamilton County Landbank, where he sets the tone for professionalism and responsiveness. Joseph is responsible for coordination of monthly Port Authority Board of Directors meetings. A Cincinnati native with a fine arts degree from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Joseph previously worked for a top 4 certified public accounting firm supporting executive level professionals during his tenure.
Tiffany Laird joined the Port Authority in May 2009, bringing an extensive background in administrative assistance. In addition to the administrative support and maintenance of official records that she provides to the legal and finance teams, she is also responsible for preparing closing documents for purchases and sales of real estate, review of contractor invoices, running property reports, and providing support to the legal staff in preparing responses to public records requests. She also manages issues with vendors and contractors and works with contractors to ensure that all necessary paperwork is submitted prior to payment.
Tiffany serves as the Women’s Ministry leader at Solid Rock Church and is a mentor with Mercy Ministries of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati. She is originally from central Minnesota.