Jackson CAO joining National League of Cities, effective Feb. 1

Jackson CAO joining National League of Cities, effective Feb. 1
Jackson CAO to resign and take job with National League of Cities. (Source: National League of Cities)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s right-hand man has taken a new position.

The National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families has announced that Jackson Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Robert Blaine will be joining the agency as its newest senior executive.

Blaine will take over the position on February 1, more than three years after joining the Lumumba administration.

He is one of the few remaining members of Lumumba’s initial team of high-profile city officials, which included Public Works Director Robert Miller and Planning and Development Director Mukesh Kumar.

“I am proud to join NLC and lead the YEF Institute, which has recently celebrated 20 years of collaboration with city officials to improve outcomes for our nation’s children, youth and families,” Blaine said in a statement. “I look forward to the work ahead in ensuring that our organization remains a driving force in empowering local leaders to act on behalf of all residents.”

Blaine joined the Lumumba administration as CAO in 2017, after previously serving as dean of undergraduate studies and cyberlearning at Jackson State University.

He has been instrumental in numerous city initiatives, including leading negotiations in the city’s contract talks with the ZoOceanarium Group. The city tapped ZoOceanarium Group to take over management of the Jackson Zoological Park in 2019. A contract has yet to be approved by the Jackson City Council.

He also has been a key figure in helping Jackson build what he calls a “dignity economy,” and sort through its myriad of water billing issues.

Blaine’s work in the latter arena has not been without controversy. In February 2020, he was reprimanded by the Jackson City Council for the overpayment of a contract designed to help correct water billing problems.

The overpayment was for about $52,000 and was to Expert Professional Services, a firm owned by Akil Bakari, who served on the mayor’s transition team and his father’s team when he ran for office.

Lumumba defended Blaine in the action, calling it an honest mistake.

YEF Institute works with local leaders “to develop strategies via technical assistance projects, peer learning networks, leadership academies and mayors’ institutes” to improve outcomes for children and families, according to the organization’s website.

Lumumba was not immediately available for comment.

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