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New Salt Lake economic consultant rarin’ to go

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Margaret Hunt's fourth-floor office looks out over Salt Lake City, so she'll have a cinematic view of the downtown Olympic festivities.

But Hunt won't have time for gazing; she'll be on the ground, pursuing what city officials and residents hope will make all the Olympic stress worthwhile: a healthier economy in Salt Lake City.

City Olympic planner John Sittner began seeking a temporary economic-development consultant months ago. And Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson has been seeking a permanent director for the department of Community and Economic Development, ever since longtime staffer Alison Weyher left last summer.

So in a matter of days after Hunt's rsum arrived in the mayor's office, she was offered two jobs: Olympic CED consultant and permanent deputy CED director.

The city still needs a CED chief, and "we have someone else in mind for that position," Deputy Mayor Rocky Fluhart said.

Until that mystery person appears, Hunt is it. She moved from her home in Fort Collins, Colo., to Salt Lake City last week and started work Thursday.

She's been away from Utah only 2 1/2 years; Hunt was a business-development executive at PacifiCorp from 1977-99.

"When I was with PacifiCorp, I helped identify their strategy for involvement with the Games," Hunt said. "This is a good opportunity to showcase Salt Lake City and hopefully capitalize on some of the long-term marketing advantages."

But the Olympics "are, like, tomorrow."

Hunt was also eager to talk about the day after tomorrow.

"One of the areas of focus will be a west-side plan for economic development," she began. "I'd like to get involved in that right away." The mayor, Hunt said, made it clear that west-side revitalization is high on his agenda. "We need to create jobs that will help people not just earn a living but also have a nice quality of life," Hunt said.

Salt Lake City has heard that before from the mayor's office. When Anderson hired Frank McCrady last spring, McCrady was to work with small-business owners across the city and give special attention to the long-troubled west side.

But by the time McCrady resigned last week, no west-side plan had been completed, and local business people such as Dr. Jim Ack, owner of the University Pet Clinic, said they frequently had trouble reaching him.

Ack, a member of the local-business advocacy group the Vest Pocket Coalition, said he sent a letter in early October to McCrady, urging him to facilitate better communication between business owners and city government.

"I never heard back," Ack said.

Ack hopes the new deputy director will tap into the local business network.

Hunt said she didn't know that McCrady had left his job at about the same time she was hired. Fluhart said the resignation resulted from a "mutual agreement" between himself and McCrady.

Hunt seems undaunted by the work awaiting her.

"Salt Lake is a city that I love . . . it's a close-knit community. The networks there are pretty strong," she said.

Hunt, 50, said the CED job was too interesting to pass up. She lived in Salt Lake City for 30 years before deciding to pursue a lifelong dream of a visual-arts degree in Colorado. "It's not too urgent at my age" to finish the degree, she added, though she plans to continue painting.

"It's been fast," this radical change in direction. But "the timing fit into my life . . . if it had been a month later," she would have been watching the Olympics on TV instead of helping host them.

E-MAIL: durbani@desnews.com