University Park Alliance will not name interim director

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal business writer

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University Park Alliance leaders say they do not plan to name an interim director after the sudden resignation of Eric Anthony Johnson, instead leaning on the organization’s chief of staff and perhaps a consultant for real estate issues.

Carol A. Murphy, UPA’s chief of staff, has been working with a large group of community members, including neighborhood block captains, faith-based institutions and businesses.

The UPA board of directors, made up of hospital, university and government leaders, met on Wednesday evening and decided against an interim appointment, said David James, board president and Akron Public Schools superintendent. UPA is a nonprofit that has been working on redevelopment of 50 city blocks in the university and downtown areas.

“Instead of looking at an interim, we’re looking at a consultant to handle a couple of things that might require some heavy lifting among the board and Carol has the institutional knowledge,” James said.

James said Murphy would be able to handle the day-to-day operations and community engagement and a local consultant could be brought in to assist the board members, who are already involved in some of the real estate projects.

Johnson said April 4 he was leaving as executive director to care for his ill mother in Kansas. Johnson joined UPA in the summer of 2010, coming from the Cleveland Port Authority, where he was in charge of the redevelopment of the Cleveland waterfront. His last official day is today, though Johnson did not attend Wednesday's meeting and is already caring for his mother.

In May 2011, UPA announced what it called a master plan for four geographic districts along three main roads — Exchange Street, Main Street and Market Street.

According to her profile on the professional networking website LinkedIn, Murphy joined UPA in January 2011 as director of strategic initiatives and resource development. In January 2012, she was named chief of staff.

She previously served from 1996 to 2007 as an administrator and director of special projects for the Akron Art Museum, where she was in charge of project planning and construction of the new facility. She was also director of student financial services at the University of Pennsylvania.

James said the board is hoping to meet again in a month. The earliest James said he sees a search beginning for Johnson's permanent replacement is June.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or Follow her on Twitter at and see all her stories at

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