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Del. Small Business Director DeStefano to step down

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Damian DeStefano, director of the Delaware Division of Small Business, discusses the DE Relief grant program at an Aug. 19 press conference. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Damian DeStefano, the director of the state’s Division of Small Business who has gained an unexpectedly large profile over the last year as the office sought to aid businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will step down from his post next month, officials announced Tuesday.

DeStefano will leave his leadership role March 5 in order to reportedly take a job in the private sector. Further details of his future job were not available Tuesday, and DeStefano declined a Delaware Business Times request for an interview regarding his decision.

Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, who oversees the Division of Small Business (DSB) as part of his wide-ranging department, called DeStefano’s departure “a big loss for all of us.”

“Damian has played a key role over the past year, not only as a division director, but as a leader in our efforts to minimize the damage of the pandemic on the state’s economy, and especially to our small business owners and their employees,” Bullock said in a statement. “I’m incredibly thankful for the contribution Damian has made to the state, and obviously I wish him all the best in his new endeavor in the private sector.”

Replacing DeStefano will be the current division deputy director, Jordan Schulties, who has served in her role since 2016.

“With a full grasp of all aspects of the work that we are doing, both within the division and in addressing the pandemic, I’m very sure Jordan will serve the department, the state, and the small business community well,” Bullock said.

DeStefano was appointed to the director position in August 2018, overseeing a division with an $8 million annual operating budget. The division was a byproduct of Gov. John Carney’s decision to break up the Delaware Economic Development Office and give its larger economic development attraction duties to the public-private Delaware Prosperity Partnership. In heading the DSB, DeStefano also oversaw the state’s investment programs, such as the taxpayer-funded Strategic Fund.

His spotlight grew enormously, however, as the Carney administration sought to respond to the economic havoc played by the pandemic. The division established the HELP loan program for restaurants and the DE Relief grant program for broader response, doling out tens of millions to aid state businesses.

“Damian has been a critical member of our team throughout this COVID-19 crisis, managing the Division of Small Business and supporting those Delaware businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. We’ll miss Damian at the state but wish him well,” Carney said in a statement Tuesday.

Prior to his time at DSB, DeStefano served as deputy principal assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget and as an economic development policy advisor to former Gov. Jack Markell.

DeStefano’s resignation continues a string of departures of state administrative leaders as Carney begins his second, four-year term. While typical for administration to see turnover at such points, the pandemic has spotlighted the changes even more. Departing in the past year have been Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan, and Chief Information Officer James Collins.

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