Reynoldsburg's new development director has been on the job for only a few days, but he already has plans for his first projects.

"My first focus may be on infill development to fill the empty commercial spaces in the city, at Brice and Livingston, for example," Andrew Bowsher said. "We want to make sure we are attracting new businesses that will be stable and good for the community."

Bowsher, 29, said he was eager to accept the position with the city; his first day was Jan. 29.

"I'm a hometown boy -- I grew up in Grove City -- and my whole family is here," he said.

He and his wife, Autumn, have two children, an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.

Bowsher succeeds Dan Havener, who left Reynoldsburg after four years to become development director in Grove City.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Bowsher spent the last year working as base community planner at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In 2016, however, he was the director of community development with the YMCA of Central Ohio, so he is "very familiar" with Reynoldsburg's YMCA community center project.

"I knew that project was in the pipeline when I worked for the YMCA," Bowsher said. "I'm familiar with a lot of the crew working on that and it is really exciting."

Voters approved a hike in the city income tax from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent in May 2017, after city leaders promised to build a community center in partnership with YMCA of Central Ohio. The city will pay for and own the building, which is expected to cost about $20 million. The YMCA then will operate the facility and pay for staffing, programming and maintenance through membership fees.

Construction is expected to begin in March 2018 on 10 acres at the north end of Huber Park, near the old Reynoldsburg Swim Club.

Before he worked for the YMCA, Bowsher was a fire-support sergeant for the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2016. He also worked as a planning consultant for the Fostoria Economic Development Corp. and for Ohio State University as an assistant planner.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in city and regional planning and a master's degree in city/ town/rural planning from OSU.

Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud said he liked Bowsher's credentials and his military background.

"He served in the United States Army both actively, in a leadership position in Afghanistan, and in the Army Reserves," McCloud said.

"Intangibles also worked to set him apart," he said. "He grew up in central Ohio, where he has extensive roots. I like and admire his energy and passion and I know he likes to take on a challenge. He knows how to be a part of a team and organization and will be a valued member of the city administration."

Bowsher's starting salary will be $85,000 per year, with approximately $28,000 offered in benefits for health care, dental, vision, life insurance and Ohio Public Employment Retirement System contributions, according to Sandra Boller, the city's human resources manager.

Bowsher said Reynoldsburg has "a lot of possibilities for expansion and growth."

"The term 'smart growth' is a great one, and I'm excited to be getting in on the starting line with the new comprehensive master development plan that is in the works," he said. "This plan is going to give us our framework."

City leaders announced last month they would be spending much of 2018 working on a comprehensive master development plan, after approving a $120,000 contract with OHM Advisors.

Bowsher said he also plans to "be a sponge" for the first few months.

"I want to learn what people are passionate about in Reynoldsburg so that I can do the best job I can for the city," he said.

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