SEDD elects Little, charts course for new year without Theus

The Southside Economic Develop District is charting its path through 2023, but its course change won’t include its executive director.

At its January meeting Monday night at the Benoit Recreation Center, SEDD officers laid out their plan of action for the months ahead, including hiring professional consultants to prepare master plans for neighborhood developments and several crime-fighting initiatives.

The board decided not to use the services of Charles Theus, its executive director, but instead will hire grant writers to pursue funding for its 47 projects.

Tony Little, SEDD president, said the district will focus on making the best use of its resources in 2023 in four areas: Safe neighborhoods and crime reduction, housing expansion, DBE opportunities, and infrastructure.

Commissioners unanimously revised the SEDD budget to use most of its $300,000 in available funds for its four approved project areas, with $200,000 appropriated for engineers and consultants. It plans to hire grant writers with expertise to tap federal, state, and private sector sources to help fund the $500 million Southside Dream.

SEDD spent all last year in a tug of war with city hall for special tax incentive help, but the mayor refused to give any money to SEDD unless it agreed to give up its right to ask for sales taxes for the next 25 years.

SEDD asked Southside council members to intervene on its behalf, but their efforts were fruitless; the mayor would not budge.

In 2023, Little says SEDD still hopes the mayor decides to help South Monroe as much as he helps downtown, but in the meantime, SEDD will seek its funds from other sources through grants and state funding.

That path did not include Theus, whose salary consumes nearly 50 percent of the commission’s monthly hotel tax revenues.

Theus was rehired on a one-year basis last January after being fired by SEDD in September of 2021.

Without comment Monday night, the board chose not to use Theus’ services another year.

In other areas, the SEDD Board voted unanimously to:
—Elect Tony Little for a two-year term as president
—Elect Otis Jones for a two-year term as Vice President
—Elect Roosevelt Wright, Jr. for a two-year term as secretary-treasurer.

The board also approved the introduction of a revised 2022-23 budget that will be approved at the February 6 meeting after public inspection.
Theus raised questions about the eligibility of Karl Dhwaliwal to serve on the SEDD board. Theus said Dhaliwal told the Chamber of Commerce president that he resigned and, therefore, should be ineligible to participate in SEDD board decisions. After making his remarks, Theus left the meeting.

Jasmine McConnell, a Chamber of Commerce member, said Dhwaliwal told the Chamber president in a private meeting that he resigned and therefore is being replaced by the Chamber.

Dhaliwal, who SEDD Board members praised as one of the city’s leading sales tax generating businesses with 21 stores in South Monroe, rarely misses meetings and actively participated in developing and passing the SEDD “Southside Dream,” 25-year plan.

Dhaliwal, who owns the 76 Now and Save franchise in Monroe, has been praised throughout the Southside for selling gas for 76 cents a gallon during November and December to give back to the community.

Monday night, Dhaliwal told the audience and SEDD board members he had not resigned from the board and “HAS NOT” written a letter of resignation.

Little said it was “Appalling” that the Chamber would attempt to remove one of the Southside’s most successful businessmen from the SEDD board if he wants to serve.

Dhaliwal cast the deciding vote not to use an executive director in 2023 as the board charts a different path.