RED BANK: SCAVONE TO LEAD RIVERCENTER

Jim Scavone, left, rockin’ promotional sunglasses at a Red Bank Flavour event last month with RiverCenter program director Amanda Lynn, center, and Visitors Center director Margaret Mass. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank RiverCenter kept it local, choosing interim director and borough resident Jim Scavone to lead the downtown promotion agency, the organization announced Tuesday night.

The selection of Scavone, who was RiverCenter’s operations manager prior to the April departure of Nancy Adams as executive director, marks a win for members of the search committee who urged their store-and-restaurant-owning colleagues to stick with in-house talent rather than bring in someone unfamiliar, people involved in the selection process told redbankgreen.

“The best man won,” said Tom Fishkin, RiverCenter’s vice chairman and owner of Readies Fine Foods on Broad Street.

Members of the board “all felt that the office has run smoothly and efficiently under [Scavone’s] command,” said Leo Zeik, board president and owner of Leonardo Jewelers on East Front Street.

Some members of the search committee, however, had pushed hard for fresh blood from outside the region, we’re told.

RiverCenter, a quasi-governmental agency funded solely by a tax on commercial properties in a designated “special improvement district,” has a wide-ranging charge: from filling retail vacancies to drawing tourists to town to keeping plants watered. Its annual budget has remained unchanged for years at $512,000.

Clashes between Adams and some merchants over her responsiveness to their particular wants and needs led to her mutually-agreed-upon ouster, she and others said at the time.

Adams had held the job since September, 2007. During her tenure, a sharp drop in economic activity spurred by the international debt crisis sent store vacancies soaring, but the town managed to recover, reducing vacancies to below five percent. At the same time, a number of new annual events aimed at spotlighting restaurants and stores were introduced, including Wedding Walk, and Oysterfest and an International Flavor Festival.

Scavone said one of his priorities will be to keep the momentum going while attracting the right mix of new businesses.

“I know that the board has asked that business recruitment get special attention,” he said. “We have a low vacancy rate, and they want to keep it that way. They want to ensure we have a good retail-restaurant mix, businesses that are good for the downtown an are strong in themselves.”

He also said he’d like to do more long-term planning for both the organization and the downtown, he said.

Scavone, 47, lives on Leroy Place with his partner, Paul Chalifour. They have three children.

Prior to arriving at RiverCenter two years ago, Scavone worked for eight years at Cerebral Palsy of Monmouth and Ocean Counties now known as the Ladicin Network, and before that, at nonprofits in Chicago.