Carlos Sanchez has an ungainly title - Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development - but he's as graceful as a Nureyev when it comes to the moves with developers, investors and elected officials to make things happen.
Carlos Sanchez, left, with developer Frank CretellaThe title has a history. The deputy city administrator was originally an ombudsman for the citizenry, but during the administration of the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, it was revised to reflect the need for a leader in attracting and coordinating development. Once a center of industry as well as a bedroom city for Wall Street millionaires, Plainfield found itself rich in historic housing in the late 20th century, but lacking other sources of tax revenue after Mack Truck and other firms moved or shut down.
By the time McWilliams left office, Deputy City Administrator Pat Ballard Fox was in charge of more than a dozen redevelopment projects, which she detailed for the next administration. But over her eight years in office, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs left the title unfilled and chose other projects.
Carlos SanchezMayor Adrian O. Mapp revived the cabinet-level title and hired Sanchez with the governing body's approval. But there was no place on the city website for the title. To find Sanchez online, a new developer would have to know to delve down to a middle-manager link from the previous administration. Luckily for the city, Sanchez had his own network in the field. With a website upgrade, his office is now on the front page.
Two and a half years in, Sanchez has also managed to navigate Plainfield's quirky culture. He knows who expects deference, but holds his own when explaining the nuances of a deal. Though some City Council members tend to browbeat the cabinet in public, Sanchez practices patience to make sure a project or a process is well-understood before the vote.
As someone who is often cranky, I stand in awe of the geniality that Sanchez displays. I don't recall ever seeing him angry or upset, no matter who is giving him a hard time
Being bilingual is another huge asset for Sanchez. Not only did Plainfield's Latino population jump 67 percent between 2000 and 2010, new Spanish-speaking businesses dominate the downtown and older ones must make their goods and services known in Spanish.
It could be argued that the advent of Sanchez alone did not get development off the dime. The groundwork was laid for many projects and the financial climate improved. But if he ever feels like taking credit for sparking progress in the East End, the West End and downtown, it's fine with me.