DeKALB – Jason Michnick is leaving his role as the city of DeKalb’s economic planner to become the first executive director of DeKalb-based Tanzania Development Support.
Michnick, 31, has become known to many people around DeKalb since he was hired in June 2016, representing the city with groups such as #ProudlyDeKalb and the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The highlight for me [as economic planner] has been getting to know people in the community,” Michnick said. “I really do genuinely believe it’s the people that make this community. And there are a lot of people out there that are really, really passionate about making DeKalb a great place to live.”
His last day with the city will be Feb. 1; by June, he’ll be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the nonprofit Tanzania support agency, which brings money and volunteers to help people in the remote town of Nyegina, nestled between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria.
“I’ve always wanted to work internationally, and I fell in love with [Tanzania] right away,” Michnick said, sitting in the council chambers at the DeKalb Municipal Building. “I just had to to seize this opportunity when it presented itself.”
He said he’s always been interested in Africa, and stumbled upon Tanzania while attending graduate school at Northern Illinois University, where he studied public administration with an emphasis in nonprofit work. He first became involved with the support group through a study abroad trip to Tanzania in 2015.
He’s spent the past 21/2 years overseeing big-ticket projects for DeKalb, such as tax increment financing (a responsibility that Michnick says will be handed to City Manager Bill Nicklas) and downtown development.
Tanzania Development Support was founded in 2009 by NIU professor Kurt Thurmaier. Michnick said the nonprofit’s board discussed creating an executive director role in its December meeting, and he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take the reins.
Mayor Jerry Smith, who once served on the nonprofit’s board, said he understood Michnick’s decision.
“I know [Michnick’s] passion for international development,” Smith said. “When I learned initially that he was going to leave, I was disappointed, but after learning what he has chosen to do, I could not be more excited [for him].”