After 14 years as Gahanna's development director, Sadicka White will retire effective March 31 and leave the city with what she calls "a heart" in Olde Gahanna.

After 14 years as Gahanna's development director, Sadicka White will retire effective March 31 and leave the city with what she calls "a heart" in Olde Gahanna.

"I feel my assignment when I was hired was to create a downtown," she told ThisWeek. "We began looking at our Olde Gahanna downtown plan that we now know as Creekside. No matter where you are, people now know Gahanna for Creekside."

The $60-million public-private development blends in so well with Olde Gahanna, White said, that many people think Creekside has been there for many years.

"The newer portion has only been there three years this May," she said. "I like to call it the heart of Olde Gahanna. It's the central part of the community and a place all the people can come."

When White arrived from Worthington in 1997, she said, people on the west side of town felt estranged from the east side.

"The people on the west side of Gahanna didn't feel as entitled as the people on the east," she said. "With the development of the downtown and Creekside, we don't hear people talk about that fabrication of community. It brought our community together, and it did it through having a downtown. I think that has been phenomenal for development."

White said people don't realize how many other businesses were drawn to downtown or improved because of Creekside.

"High Street has been improved and reconstructed along with Mill Street," she said. "People don't remember how Mill Street looked with the wires overhead."

Under her leadership, White said, her department also helped market and brand the Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival and the Holiday Lights! Festival.

"Those were accomplished under my directorship with citizen voluntary input," she said. "I think one of the highlights for us was in 2007, when we were named by Money Magazine as one of the top (100) communities under 50,000 (population) in the whole United States (to live). That's a huge honor, and then we were subsequently named as a top community to start a small business."

White said Creekside is her legacy, along with Central Park, a 200-acre mixed-use development that's expected to accommodate 1.2-million square feet of office space and more than 4,000 new employees in the next 15 to 30 years.

The business district will be supported by such amenities as a nine-hole executive golf course that's set to open in April or May. The site previously was a brownfield, or landfill.

"We were able to close a health and safety hazard, a landfill, and get one of the first Clean Ohio (Revitalization Fund) grants," White said. "I'm looking forward to the opening of the (Tartan) golf course."

She said her department also helped the city with job creation through tax-abated programs as an incentive.

"At the height of our tax abatements, we created over 5,000 jobs as a result of those tax incentives, and those jobs are still here because we do report them to the city, as well as the county," White said. "We also reached our pinnacle of income-tax collection, of which 60 percent comes from our business community. I helped bring and retain those businesses. We reached over $16-million in income taxes, with the highest year in 2006."

White will continue to live in Gahanna, and she has been asked to start an advisory board for the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"I'll rest for a little bit (and) then I'll be starting a business, Sadicka & Associates, as well as continue with the Servant Leadership Development Institute, promoting economic development and leadership management on how you serve people in increased capacity, in terms of leadership dynamic."

Prior to working in Gahanna, White served as assistant city manager in Worthington and as the service director and planning associate for Lima.

During last week's council and planning-commission meetings, she received many well wishes and accolades for her work in Gahanna.

"Sadicka is one of the first persons I met in Gahanna," councilman Andre Porter said. "She's certainly a salesperson for the city. Thank you for what you've done."

Council president David Samuel said he appreciates White's philosophy to "shop local, think global."