The Team

Perry Square

We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the trajectory of our community in a comprehensive and intentional way.


The city of Erie has very real challenges. It is currently experiencing a weakened economy due to a declining population and tax base, as well as a shortage of what was once a plethora of manufacturing jobs.

The opportunity for the Erie Downtown Development Corporation (EDDC) lies in the momentum that is already increasing to change Erie’s course. In the last year, several organizations have made substantial commitments to the growth and revitalization of the city. Those commitments by large employers exceed $600 million.

The EDDC, with support from its Board of Directors, can leverage community-developed plans already in place and the collective support of the Erie Refocused Plan. Significant investment is being made in downtown Erie today by local corporations, universities and our philanthropic sector that also serve to supplement implementation of these plans and those of the EDDC. The EDDC has set $25–$35 million as the target for initial capitalization of an equity fund that will support EDDC-directed real estate developments.

While the EDDC will focus on a core section of Erie’s downtown, other organizations have adopted significant portions of these plans in neighborhoods adjacent to the city’s core. Our West Bayfront, Bayfront Eastside Task Force, the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network and others will work in concert to ensure a cohesive, comprehensive approach. This collaborative approach will gain efficiencies, drive change and realize the collective vision of a vital and vibrant city of Erie.

The EDDC will also work in collaboration with governmental officials, such as the city’s economic development director and planning director, as well as with local neighborhood groups, to support services and community members on selected development projects in downtown Erie and fully leverage each organization’s respective resources and abilities.

To achieve change for Erie, funders are coming together to implement the downtown portion of these comprehensive plans, putting aside individual interests and collaborating for the betterment of the Erie community.

The Team

John Persinger, Chief Executive Officer

Persinger previously worked at MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton law firm, where he focused on business and commercial transactions. He also provided legal assistance and guidance on local government and municipal law matters and counseled local, national and international clients on a variety of corporate governance and regulatory matters, such as labor and employment, anti-corruption and export issues.

Prior to obtaining his juris doctorate, Persinger served in a number of government positions, including as attaché to the U.S. ambassador to Australia at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia. In that role, he advised the ambassador on embassy and consulate issues, as well as on American and Australian domestic and foreign affairs. He also served as executive assistant to the White House deputy counsel, where he assisted in the nomination and confirmation processes of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Persinger holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.

Matthew B. Wachter, Vice President, Finance & Development

Wachter previously worked at MacDonald, Illig, Jones & Britton law firm as a transactional tax attorney with an emphasis on business and commercial transactions, mergers & acquisitions (M&A) and business succession matters. 

Wachter is an Erie native and returned to his hometown in 2012. Prior to his return to Erie, he was a senior associate at the accounting firm KPMG, LLP in the M&A tax practice group in Philadelphia and New York City. At KPMG, Wachter undertook tax due diligence assistance services and tax structuring of domestic and cross-border acquisitions for private equity clients. 

Wachter is Treasurer of the Erie County Bar Association and he also works with startup companies at the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University. 

Wachter holds a masters of law in taxation (L.L.M. Tax) degree from Villanova University School of Law, a juris doctorate from Duquesne University School of Law, and a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University – University Park. 

Nicole Reitzell, Vice President, Community Engagement

Reitzell has spent her career in the nonprofit sector, working to make the Erie community a safer, healthier, and more vibrant place.

Reitzell first worked in public safety as a paramedic at EmergyCare, becoming familiar with every part of the city. She found her passion in making a difference through fundraising at EmergyCare. She then joined Hamot Health Foundation where she was heavily involved in development for the School-Based Health Center in Erie’s lower east side. Reitzell then led the fundraising efforts at two of Erie’s favorite lead assets: the Erie Philharmonic and the Erie Zoo. In 2017, she earned her Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) designation, a certification held by only about 16% of professional fundraisers.

Reitzell is currently the President of the Nonprofit Partnership board. She serves on the PA State Police Camp Cadet and Rotary Club of Erie Scholarship Foundation boards. She is a member of the Hamot Health Foundation board of corporators.

Reitzell grew up in Clymer, NY and has lived her adult life in Erie, PA and considers Erie home.


Tim NeCastro, President

NeCastro is president and chief executive officer of Erie Insurance, a property and casualty insurer domiciled in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, and operating in 12 states and the District of Columbia. A 20-year veteran of the company and senior vice president from 1997 through 2016, NeCastro’s leadership includes positions with the internal audit department, the controller division, product and policy services division, and the company’s west regional office.

Prior to joining ERIE, NeCastro served as director of finance for the Plastek Group in Erie, Pennsylvania, and in senior management at Ernst & Young in its Cleveland, Ohio, and Erie, Pennsylvania, offices.

An Erie native, NeCastro earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Gannon University. He maintains his certified public accounting designation, is a certified insurance counselor, and holds licenses in property and casualty and life insurance. He supports many local nonprofit organizations and sits on the boards of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Insurance Information Institute, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Bayfront East Side Taskforce, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network; he also serves on the Gannon University board of trustees.

Keith Taylor, Vice President

Taylor is president of Gannon University, where he previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. He is noted for his commitment to students, service to the community, and work in building cultural and global awareness.

Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, a master’s degree in exercise science and a doctoral degree in anatomy and cell biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has an extensive record of scholarly presentations and peer-reviewed publications.

Since joining Gannon University, his volunteer work has included serving as chair of the board of directors for the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, a member of the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania board of directors, a board member of the Erie Technology Incubator, and a corporator of United Way of Erie County and Hamot Health Foundation. He has also served as a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Erie, the Cooperative for Innovation and Commercialization and the Keystone Innovation Zone Council. He has traveled extensively, while both providing service to those in need as well as developing global partnerships and opportunities for Gannon’s students and faculty to learn and serve throughout the world.

Prior to his work at Gannon, Taylor served at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, from 1988 to 2005 as a full professor, academic dean of health and human services, and chairman of the Department of Physical Therapy, as well as working for the assistant to the vice president for academic affairs for instructional technology and liberal learning.

Dave Zimmer, Treasurer

Zimmer, is President of ERIEBANK and has over thirty five years of banking experience in the Erie area.

A native of Erie, Zimmer graduated from Cathedral Prep in 1980. He went on to receive his B.S. degree in business administration, graduating cum laude with a major in finance from Clarion University in 1984. There he earned the Watts Society Scholarship Award. Zimmer graduated from the Pennsylvania Bankers Association Central Atlantic School of Banking at Bucknell University in 1993.

Zimmer has been active in a number of community, civic and charitable organizations. He currently serves as the chairman of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, and as a member of the Governing Body of Athena Powerlink. He is a board member of the Erie County Revolving Loan Fund, past chairman and current member of the Board of Corporators for the UPMC Hamot Health Foundation, and member of the Board of Directors for UPMC Hamot.  Zimmer also serves on the board and the executive committee of the UPMC Hamot Health Foundation. 

Mike Batchelor, Secretary

Batchelor was named the first executive director of the Erie Community Foundation in 1990 and has served as the foundation’s president since 1995. Under his management, assets have increased from $20 million to $220 million, placing the Erie Community Foundation within the top 10% of community foundations in the nation. Under Batchelor’s leadership, the Erie Community Foundation received national recognition for expanding access to opportunity.

He founded the Nonprofit Partnership, a membership-based capacity-building nonprofit. He also established regional affiliate foundations serving Corry, Union City, and North East, Pennsylvania, and Findley Lake, New York.

Batchelor earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy analysis from Kent State University. He is a two-time president of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Foundations and a nationally elected leader of the Council of Foundations. He also served on the National Governing Council. He consults for community foundations across the country and is a well-known instructor for the Center for Community Foundation Excellence in Washington, DC.

Board Members

    Michael Edwards, senior executive vice president and secretary chief executive officer, Marquette Savings Bank

    Cal Pifer, vice president for university advancement, Mercyhurst University

    David Gibbons, president, UPMC Hamot

    Tom Hagen, chairman of the board, Erie Insurance; chairman, Custom Group Industries

    Pierre McCormick, president, Wisconsin Distributors

    Jeffrey Szumigale, senior vice president and managing director of wealth management greater Pennsylvania region, PNC Bank

    Carl Wolfrom, senior vice president and district manager, Northwest Bank

Erie Art Museum Erie Seawolves Beach at Presque Isle Erie Playhouse