By JOHN T. WARD
The top job at downtown promotion agency Red Bank RiverCenter is vacant following the abrupt departure of Nancy Adams as executive director Friday.
Adams announced her resignation in an email to redbankgreen, describing her departure as neither a firing nor a forced resignation but as an amicable split with RiverCenter’s board of directors.
“It was a mutual thing,” she said in an interview Saturday. “Overall, I think the board was very happy with what we did to move forward from economic devastation.”
But she cited “ruffled feathers,” scapegoating and what she said was a relatively short lifecycle for heads of state-chartered Special Improvement Districts among her reasons for leaving.
Readie’s Market Café owner Tom Fishkin, one of three board members whose meeting with Adams Friday prompted the resignation, attributed the move to “some creative differences” and a desire for a “fresh start.”
Adams at the Count Basie Theatre in October for the unveiling of RiverCenter’s “A Cool Little Town” marketing campaign. (Click to enlarge)
Twenty-two-year-old RiverCenter manages Red Bank’s Special Improvement District, charged with helping to fill vacant storefronts and pumping up consumer activity. In 2007, the downtown zone covered by the SID was expanded to include businesses along Bridge Avenue and the length of Monmouth Street.
Still, RiverCenter’s budget has remained unchanged for years at $512,000, which is funded entirely by a surtax on commercial properties in the zone and not, as commonly misunderstood, by borough homeowners. The operation runs on a staff of three and volunteers.
Adams was hired as executive director in September, 2007, succeeding Tricia Rumola. A resident of Maplewood, where she’s on the planning board, Adams was a volunteer co-founder of the Springfield Avenue Partnership SID in that town in 1995.
Shortly after her arrival in Red Bank, the effects of the global credit crisis began to be felt in the district, as storefronts emptied out. RiverCenter, though, forged ahead with marketing outreach and a raft of annual events aimed at bringing visitors to town, Adams said.
“We virtually tripled the number of events,” adding such magnets as Wedding Walk, aimed at promoting the district’s vendors of all-things-bridal, from gowns to catering to photography the latest edition of which was held Sunday.
Adams also cited some high-profile tenant signings in which RiverCenter played a role, including the quick replacement of Funk and Standard with Greene Street Consignment at 40 Broad Street last summer. And she credited elected officials for enacting, and then extending, a moratorium on a parking contribution that formerly cost new businesses tens of thousands of dollars in start-up costs. The change “had a huge impact in motivating new businesses to come here and giving us the ability to rebound,” she said.
But Adams sparred with restaurant members of RiverCenter, who formed a Red Bank Flavour marketing effort that is under RiverCenter’s financial oversight, business owners said. There were also grumblings about a recent expansion of at Broad Street valet parking service to include Char Steakhouse, which opened February 28 in the former Ashes Cigar Bar.
Fishkin, while praising Adams as an “excellent” director, alluded to the need for the agency head to serve as “an ambassador to the board and the town.”
“You can sometimes ruffle feathers,” Adams told redbankgreen, “and the executive director of a SID often ends up being the scapegoat” among competing interests.
Noting that turnover in SID management is “pretty common,” Adams said it was time for her to make a personal and professional change.
“I’m not sure, after 20 years in this business, if I want to continue,” she said.
Fishkin said the board is expected to hold a meeting to discuss the search for Adams’ replacement Tuesday morning.
Details of the executive director’s salary were not immediately available, but Fishkin said he believed the starting salary was in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.
He also said that he will push for parity in the salaries of the director and the director of operations, a post now held by James Scavone.