First City Commissioner of Economic Development and Innovation

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, City Council and Chief Administrative Officer Jason Reynar are pleased to announce Jelena Payne is the corporation’s first Commissioner of Economic Development and Innovation, overseeing the Economic Development, Land Use Planning, Information Technology and Building Services departments.

“After a thorough national search over several months, we are confident that Ms. Payne has the right experience, proven track record of delivering results, and unique collaborative leadership style needed for this new role,” said CAO Reynar. “We are very excited to capitalize on Ms. Payne’s skills and experience in both the private and public sectors, specifically her business development experience, to lead this challenging portfolio for us.”

While living in the United States, Ms. Payne held senior positions with some of the largest names in the food and beverage industry. She held a senior management position with PepsiCo/AmeriServe and YUM! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut., ultimately becoming responsible for leading the purchasing department supplying over 20,000 restaurants across North America and leading new product development as a Project Manager.

Upon her return to Ontario, Jelena joined the Ontario Public Service (OPS), initially as a Senior Policy Advisor. While with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, she led the department responsible for public education and partnerships in the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). At the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in Guelph, she led a team of Economic Development specialists responsible for rural Ontario, oversaw the Agriculture Information Contact Centre, and was part of the Foodland Ontario Marketing Team.

“It was an extremely difficult choice to leave my team and the network of dedicated community agencies supporting Human and Health Services. They are some of the most caring and compassionate people you will ever know, working tirelessly to support residents to reach their full potential throughout all stages of life. I’m particularly proud of the team’s management of challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and their support for the community.” Payne further states, “However, this new position provides an exciting opportunity to engage with the business and development community to help the city grow to its full potential through the Windsor Works strategy. I’m eager to begin in this new role.”

Ms. Payne moves to position of Commissioner of Economic Development and Innovation effective April 4, 2022. The current Executive Director of Housing and Children’s Services, Debbie Cercone, will assume the role of interim Commissioner of Human and Health Services, pending a recruitment for the position on a permanent basis.

“Over the past two years, Jelena has moved mountains in her current role to deliver for the community and has always done so with dedication, professionalism and compassion. In taking on this new challenge, she will be responsible for guiding the implementation of City Council’s Economic Diversification blueprint: Windsor Works and preparing the City of Windsor for sustained job creation and economic growth. This work will be done in collaboration with community business and academic partners and I can think of nobody better suited to lead that team than Ms. Payne,” said Windsor Mayor, Drew Dilkens.

Further Background:

Jelena Payne joined the City of Windsor in 2012 in the role of Community Development and Health Services Commissioner – Corporate Leader – Social Development, Health, Recreation & Culture. This diverse portfolio includes Employment Ontario and Social Services; Housing, Homelessness and Children’s Services; Huron Lodge Long Term Care Home; Social Policy and Planning and Health. From 2012 to 2017, the portfolio also included Recreation and Culture.

Jelena was born and raised in Windsor, graduating form the University of Windsor with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Education degree. She also holds the professional designation of Administrator, Long Term Care and a certificate in economic development.

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