BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — After five years as city clerk for the city of Bridgeport, Andrea Kerr is changing roles going into the new year.
As of Jan. 2, Kerr will be the city’s new Community Development Director, taking over a position left vacant by Randy Spellman’s retirement.
“Randy Spellman had the position for almost 35 years, and he was a guru with planning, zoning and annexations, and he was also the building official for the city, so I have to take a series of tests,” she said. “My first test will be Jan. 11, so I’ve been studying for my test while on Christmas break.”
Since there is a slight learning curve to the job, Kerr isn’t planning on diving head first into her goals on day one.
“There’s a lot of things that I want to do, but it’s going to take some time to learn the building code, to take these tests, and we have some ideas for annexation,” she said. “Our comprehensive plan needs updated. We update that every five years, so coincidentally in my first year we have to update our comprehensive plan, so I’ll be doing that the first part of the year.”
As city clerk, Kerr was already heavily involved in city operations, wearing many different hats throughout the work day, but as she prepares for her new role, Kerr’s learned that community development is about managing business just as much as it is encouraging business growth.
“We offer incentives for companies to come into Bridgeport. We also offer incentives for existing businesses who want to give their current business a face-lift,” she said. “Offering all of those incentives, mixed in with trying to bring companies in, it’s a big task within itself.”
While many think of retail and restaurants within the city of Bridgeport, much of its economic growth has been in technology and medical sectors as well.
Along W.Va. 279 sits the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services, and as contracting businesses are hired in to work for the FBI, they often try to move close to the facility.
“There are a significant amount of those companies locating in Bridgeport trying to do work with the FBI, and with the hospital being right there, there’s a lot of doctor’s offices moving into that 279 corridor area also. Obviously that’s helped the growth there, among other things,” Kerr said.
One of Bridgeport’s most anticipated projects will culminate under Kerr’s reign as community development director — the indoor recreation complex.
A transaction for additional acreage next to the proposed land, located directly across Forrester Boulevard off of W.Va. 131.
“There’s not enough fields for youth sports in Bridgeport. We have recognized that, and that was a reason for the purchase of the additional acreage,” Kerr said. “Then the building, the indoor complex, we have not decided officially what’s going to be included inside.”
Kerr said the facility will certainly house basketball courts, though a specific number of courts is still to be decided.
“We’re trying to figure out how many are needed to efficiently hold not only our Bridgeport rec leagues, but we also want to bring in tournaments,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be an economic driver for this area.”
Other possibilities include an indoor turf, a swimming pool, walking trails and an exercise facility.
“There’s so many components, and we would love to include everything, and it might be a phased project, which is what we’re also talking about right now too,” she said. “We’re just trying to figure out what to do first and what all will be included.”
Another addition to the city Kerr will direct in her new position is Menards, Inc.
“They are a home supply store and then some,” Kerr said. “They have groceries, they have a lot of pet supplies and automotive. They’re just an all encompassing organization, really, and it seems to be a well oiled machine.”
Kerr estimates the store’s opening still being a few years out.
“I will say that 2020 will probably be a big year for Bridgeport because that’s when we’re expecting our indoor complex to open, Menards is going to open and the Charles Pointe complex will be booming in the next couple of years, more so than it already is,” she said.
The Valley Hills Shopping Center along S. Virginia Avenue, which currently houses Dollar General, Amish Traditions and Colours Inc., will soon be getting a face-lift as well.
“We are very excited, and they have some big things planned,” Kerr said. “Nothing’s been set in stone just yet. We have a few meetings coming up with them in the new year to try to work through all of that, but a face-lift is definitely needed, and their renderings look fantastic.”
With the city’s expansive growth, however, does come challenges. Kerr said the biggest difficulty is lack of available land.
“We are out of space,” she said. “We don’t have very much land left to develop, which is why annexation will be such an integral part for me in this upcoming year and in future years.”