PROVIDENCE – Cassandra Thomas, a former federal disaster recovery officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been named Providence’s new director of economic development, Mayor Brett P. Smiley announced Friday.
Thomas, whose 20-year career is detailed with high-level project management, workforce development and economic crisis intervention experiences, brings a community-centric and innovation-driven approach to economic development, focused on creating high-quality jobs and building a more resilient future for communities, according to a news release.
In addition to her new role, Thomas will help inform and drive the city’s planning, redevelopment and arts, culture and tourism strategies.
“Under Mayor Smiley’s leadership, Providence is uniquely positioned to thrive and become a regional powerhouse,” Thomas said. “I am excited to join the Smiley administration and to work with so many talented and dedicated professionals that are focused on building that brighter future for this city.”
During her time with FEMA, Thomas led long-term recovery efforts for Northeastern states battling the economic impacts of COVID-19, also working to create economic development plans for other communities such as the state of Queensland in Australia; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and the Capital Region in Louisiana. She also worked with the Conn. Department of Housing to develop a new model of wraparound services for shelters, helping people attain the resources necessary to break cycles of homelessness.
Thomas also led innovative workforce development projects in communities across the U.S., supporting tribes in Maine in starting aquaculture projects, and identifying opportunities to develop outdoor recreation and artisanal manufacturing in Vermont.
“In order for Providence to become the world-class city we all know it has the potential to be, we need a strong economic development strategy and Cassandra Thomas is the right person to lead that effort,” Smiley said. “Together, I am confident we can bring Providence to the next level by tackling the big issues, like expanding and improving our housing stock, and investing in our strengths like our higher learning institutions, our critically acclaimed arts and culinary scenes, and our local talent.”