FORT WAYNE – Bill Brown is finally in the position he has long wanted – and he wants to make it last.
Brown on Monday officially began his duties as the interim director of the Downtown Improvement District. Having been involved with business and neighborhood development for most of his adult life, Brown said the position fits his skills and experience perfectly.
Im just excited about the opportunity, he said. People understand that having a vibrant downtown is critical for the region.
The downtown has increased its vibrancy over the past few years from the construction of Parkview Field to the private sector adding restaurants and amenities throughout the area, Brown said. The most critical thing to help the area become even better is to increase the communitys desire to come downtown and be active, he said.
We need people who want a vibrant downtown to participate, to come downtown spend some money, he said.
Browns ascension as interim director came after the districts board on Thursday unanimously voted to accept the resignation of President Rich Davis after a multihour private session. Charles Heiny, board chairman, previously said Davis submitted his resignation Thursday after about two weeks of discussion that he would be leaving.
The district will pay Davis salary – he made $105,000 annually – for the next 90 days, and in return Davis will provide part-time assistance during the transition. As interim director, Brown will be paid a $78,500 annual salary, prorated to the time of his term.
In a prepared statement, Heiny said Davis helped the district develop key partnerships and continued the growth of the citys core. He added he was glad to have Brown help the district through the time of transition.
Bill starts his work with a high level of familiarity with the DID and its goals, having previously served on the DID Board of Directors and having been involved in implementing Blue Jacket into the Clean & Green program, BuskerFest and the Downtown Development Trust, Heiny said in the statement.
Brown, who sought the job in 2005, said he was grateful for the chance to lead the district after being approached by members of the board, but he added he doesnt intend to just be there for the interim.
It was very much my intent to do this position full time for as long as I can, he said.
City Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, said he was pleased with Browns selection to lead the organization.
I know hes a strong supporter of downtown, Smith said. I think its a very good fit for him, his personality and his skills.
In March, Smith criticized Davis for being inaccessible to downtown businesses and said the districts website lacked critical information, such as board meetings. On Monday, Smith said he was hopeful Brown would be chosen to lead the organization for the long term, and was especially pleased the group is being directed by someone with local ties.
Brown said the new position will not stop him from seeking a seat on the Allen County Council this fall.
The Republican, who previously served as a county commissioner, is seeking one of the councils three at-large posts. If elected, he said he would have to abstain from voting on giving money to the district, and compared it to City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, who serves as the executive director of Headwaters Park.
In fact, Brown said it is surprising anyone would question the positions, noting he is just trying to get involved as much as he can with the community – something he encourages everyone to do.
Brown said he does not expect to make any sweeping changes at the district, noting it has a good staff. One idea for improving the area would be to create a connection between Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and the Embassy Theatre so people can travel between the two venues without going outside, Brown said.
Heiny previously said the board would set the parameters for its search during its next meeting, and he hoped a permanent replacement would be selected by the end of the year.