By Jane Smith
The Downtown Development Authority has a new executive director.
At its September board meeting, Associate Director Laura Simon was promoted unanimously to the position vacated by Marjorie Ferrer.
Simon started Oct. 1. She has a 12-month contract, with details to be voted on at the Delray Beach board’s Oct. 12 meeting. She expects an increase in her total compensation package. At present her base salary is $61,800.
“I’m willing to take it on,” Simon told the board members in September.
After the vote, she presented the board members with her outline on how the DDA should be organized. With their OK, she plans to hire two full-time employees — an operations manager who will be in charge of office management, meetings and logistics, data entry and web updates, and a projects manager who will be the secondary DDA face in the community to implement projects, events and marketing, manage volunteers and develop merchant promotions.
Simon also plans to register at local colleges and universities with internship opportunities and will rely on the core group of DDA volunteers to staff the booth at the beach.
But she doesn’t see a need to hire Ferrer as a consultant. “I spent five years working side-by-side and developed strong skills,” Simon said.
She also said the restaurant employee parking program was pushed back to a mid-November start because of “nuts and bolts issues that have to be worked out with the city.” Restaurateurs are excited about the program, she said.
Ferrer’s contract was not renewed at a special meeting on Aug. 13. She had been DDA executive director since 1993. At the time of her departure, Ferrer’s base salary was $94,003 with a $3,600 annual car allowance.
The board felt pressure from Simon, who said she was hired five years ago as Ferrer’s replacement and had a job offer. It also was under pressure from the City Commission to reduce the percentage of its budget spent on administrative costs. The mayor said it was 40 percent.
At the Sept. 3 City Commission meeting, when new DDA board Chairman Mark Denkler, Vice Chair Frank Frione and Simon presented the agency’s budget, the mayor said, “Succession planning is difficult... I applaud you for the critical analysis taken.”
Mayor Cary Glickstein encouraged the DDA to work with its previous partner, the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, “to find areas where you can be more efficient and leverage the talent of your board and staff.”
They are working more closely and decided to be called “Team Delray,” Simon told her board in September.
The two organizations might merge, Simon said in late September. The topic came up at the DBMC’s goal-setting session and Simon said the DDA board may consider it.
Board members had wanted to host a party for Ferrer to celebrate her 22 years of service. But Simon said Ferrer did not want a party and was working to develop a consulting business. Simon encouraged DDA members to contact Ferrer to wish her well.
In other action at the Sept. 12 DDA board meeting, the board tried to have a closed 10-minute session to discuss the future of the DDA. That lasted for 5 minutes until its attorney told board members they needed to open the meeting and allow the public to be present.