Seed Capital Ky, the nonprofit behind the West Louisville FoodPort, has hired Charles Booker to serve as director of strategic partnerships on the project.
Booker will act as a go-between for the nonprofit and the West Louisville FoodPort Community Council, which is made up of stakeholders and residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the planned 24-acre food port at 30th Street between Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Main Street.
Booker also will work with prospective tenants and businesses.
“He brings a strong background in community building, government relations and neighborhood development,” Caroline Heine, project director for the West Louisville FoodPort, said in an email. “He is a lifelong resident of the Shawnee neighborhood, and his passion for his community is palpable.”
Although Booker was hired in the wake of recent contention over a proposal to build a biofuel plant at the food port, Heine tells Insider Louisville his hiring is not a result of that controversy.
“This hire is a continuation of our community engagement strategy that we started as soon as we got the option agreement from the city and knew where we were going to be developing the FoodPort,” Heine wrote, noting that Louisville consulting firm Better Together Strategies previously fulfilled many of the duties Booker will soon take on. Better Together Strategies will continue to provide community engagement services for the project, she added.
“Bringing Charles on board simply brings in-house many of those same efforts.”
The biofuel plant was scrapped from the plans last month due to vocal opposition from residents.
The food port project will include a collection, distribution and packaging operation for regional farmers to prepare their food before selling it; a community garden; a farmers market; retail space; a common area for nearby residents; and educational classes.
Booker will start in mid-October after finishing up his responsibilities as project manager for Mayor Greg Fischer’s Innovation Delivery Team, which led initiatives such as neighborhood Wi-Fi, she said.
Prior to that, Booker was director of personnel and administrative services for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife; managed volunteers during U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns; and served as legislative assistant for the 4th Metro Council District. (He also spent a year working for the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort but was fired in 2014 for appearing in a campaign commercial for then-U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, according to The Courier-Journal; the LRC requires employees to be nonpartisan.)
Booker graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s of science degree, then obtained a law degree at U of L.
He lives with his wife Tanesha Booker and daughter Kaylin in Louisville’s Shawnee neighborhood.