The Omaha Municipal Land Bank, after the resignation of its first executive director, is putting more priority on local connections and experience for its second leader.

The board met Wednesday for the first time after accepting the resignation of Executive Director Brittany Jefferson.

Board Chairwoman Jamie Berglund said a board search committee is considering two people to serve as interim executive director until a permanent replacement can be hired.

Those two people are Marty Barnhart and Cathy Lang, Berglund said. Barnhart is the former director of the Land Reutilization Commission. Lang formerly headed the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Department of Labor.

Lang is a member of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board. Berglund said Lang would have to resign her board position to become the executive director.

Jefferson had worked for the agency only four months before the board scheduled a special meeting in January to consider her resignation.

City Council President Ben Gray, who was instrumental in creating the land bank, had said in January that the board was trying to push out Jefferson, and for no good reason.

The board took no action in January. But it accepted Jefferson’s resignation at another special meeting, on Feb. 1.

Gray declined to comment on that action. On Wednesday, Gray said hiring Barnhart as interim executive director “would be the best thing that could happen.”

“He has the background and the history,” Gray said. “He understands land banks. He understands tax sales. ... He has a lot of connections in the community already, so he could hit the ground running.”

Gray said he opposes hiring any board member to run the agency.

“The board has enough work to do,” he said. “We’ve only been in business a year, and we’ve already replaced two board members. ... Someone else should be the operations person.”

Berglund said at the meeting that an executive search committee hoped to have candidates to interview for the permanent job by the end of March.

Mike Riedmann, a nonvoting member of the Land Bank Board, said the board had “overlooked connectivity to the community” as an important factor in hiring its first executive director.

“There’s just such a ramp-up required for somebody coming in from out of town, to know who’s who and how to get around,” Riedmann said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1057,

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