Leader of Detroit Land Bank resigns; interim appointed

·2 min read
Saskia Thompson, executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, in a 2018 photograph.
Saskia Thompson, executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, in a 2018 photograph.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority's leader has resigned after four years at the helm.

Executive Director Saskia Thompson is leaving the agency to "pursue other opportunities," according to a news release from the agency.

The authority's board voted unanimously to authorize Chair Erica Ward Gerson to enter into a "transition agreement" with Thompson and also an agreement with Deputy Executive Director Tammy Daniels to take over as interim executive director.

Since July 2017, Thompson has run the quasi-city agency, which is tasked with managing city-owned properties and until 2020 helped run Detroit's massive demolition program.

Thompson's resignation was effective Friday. It is not clear what the transition agreement will entail. Thompson's contract says she is not entitled to a severance if she resigns and is required to give 30 days' notice. Daniels will make $174,000 a year in the post.

Thompson couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

"We appreciate Saskia’s service to the DLBA and wish her well in her future endeavors,” Gerson said in a news release. “We’re entering an exciting new phase at the land bank, where our focus can shift to offering enhanced opportunities for Detroiters to purchase our remaining structures, finding new and innovative uses for our vacant land holdings, and supporting our thousands of buyers through the renovation of their homes."

Thompson, who made $174,000 a year, came to Detroit amid a federal probe of the city's blight removal effort. Last year, a federal inspector found Detroit had some $13 million in unsubstantiated costs from May 2017 through 2019. And the city's demolition program has faced scrutiny over its safety procedures for years.

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The land bank has had mixed reviews from residents. Some complain the agency hasn't done enough to maintain the dilapidated homes in its portfolio. But others have praised efforts like the Rehabbed & Ready program, which renovated blighted homes and sold them to area families. Officials say the authority sold an average of 200 homes a month in 2021 and that 70% of homebuyers were Detroit residents.

Before coming to the land bank, Thompson served as Philadelphia's deputy finance director. Thompson also had a seat on Philadelphia's City Planning Commission and served as executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of Property Data.

Thompson is from Detroit and graduated from Cass Technical High School, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Chicago and a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong salary figure for Saskia Thompson based on inaccurate information from the Detroit Land Bank Authority. The figure has been corrected.

Contact Christine MacDonald: cmacdonald@freepress.com or 313-418-2149.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Land Bank chief resigns; interim appointed

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