HUNTINGTON — Members of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority agreed to hire City Manager Cathy Burns as the agency's new executive director Monday.

Burns, who has been city manager since 2016, will relinquish her former position effective July 1 with an annual salary of $115,500.

She is taking over from former Executive Director Tom Bell, who retired late last year after nearly a decade. However, he remained in the position until recently to help wrap up negotiations on several purchases of property.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who serves on the board, said Burns' previous experiences will help lead the agency as it seeks to revitalize more than 50 acres of former industrial property in the city's Highlawn neighborhood. There are plans to build a baseball stadium for Marshall University, a hotel, manufacturing and research facilities, among other things.

"We are embarking upon the most important economic opportunity for our city in more than half a century. The next five years will determine our next 50 years," Williams said. "We must have the most capable and qualified person to guide us through these waters."

Williams said he would immediately begin searching for the next city manager to replace Burns, only filling it when he finds the right person. He said his experience in previously serving as Huntington city manager will help him know who to look for.

Burns said her previous role helped her prepare for the new position and she was excited by the opportunity.

"This is an exciting time to be joining HMDA as the executive director and I'm looking forward to the challenge," she said. "HMDA board members are prepared to take bold economic development strategies and I'm pleased to help them fulfill their mission."

Burns has served as city manager since June 2016, having previously served as an administrative assistant to the mayor's office from 1985 to 1988. She then spent nearly 11 years as the director of the city's Department of Development and Planning. She left that position to become executive director of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone, a position she held for 11 years. She was also a recruiter for RCBI before she was named president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in September 2013. She left that position when she became city manager.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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