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Posted at 4:51 PM ET, 02/18/2011

New deputy mayor introduces himself to affordable-housing developers

By Jonathan O'Connell

Victor Hoskins made one of his first public appearances as the District's new deputy mayor for planning and economic development Thursday when he spoke for about an hour to more than 100 members of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, an association of affordable housing builders and community development organizations.

Hoskins said he knew many of the people in the room from his work as Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development, calling out the names of Harry D. Sewall, executive director of the D.C. Housing Finance agency, Albert "Butch" Hopkins, president and chief executive of the Anacostia Economic Development Corp., and others.

But he still provided an introduction, explaining that he was born in Chicago public housing, grew up in Southern California, attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent time working on Wall Street.

He said he was "absolutely stunned" when he was asked to interview to be deputy mayor and knew he wanted the post after meeting Mayor Vincent C. Gray. "I saw loyalty, I saw integrity, I saw just an overwhelming passion for the city of D.C.," he said.

Although only in his fourth day on the job, Hoskins also discussed some of Gray's priorities for economic development, among them lowering the unemployment rate and building new affordable housing. He laid out some of his ideas for getting there, too -- among them offering tax incentives for employers to hire, creating redevelopment corporations for the city's largest economic development projects and reorganizing the department and the agencies it oversees.

There were a few shots at the Fenty administration along the way. "May I ask, why isn't there an economic development strategy?" he said.

He did not seem concerned when asked about the possibility of Wal-Mart opening its first four stores in the city. "We had Wal-Marts coming to Maryland. Didn't hurt Maryland," he said.

Hoskins was both emotional and gregarious. Near the start he choked up after meeting some District youth, saying they needed the community's support and recalling the help he got growing up. But as he continued he made a number of self-deprecating jokes, drawing big laughs from the crowd.

"I kind of talk like a brother - don't look like one," he said, referring to his light complexion. He explained that he had an African-American father who was a soldier fighting in Italy when he met Hoskins's mother, who grew up there. "Yes, my father learned how to speak Italian," he said. "My mother was fine."

By Jonathan O'Connell  | February 18, 2011; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  Economic Development  
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