Egleston Square Main Street, a critical partner in the commercial district that straddles the Roxbury Jamaica Plain border, is searching for a new executive director.
Betsy Cowan, the non-profit’s previous director, has stepped down to take a position with the Department of Neighborhood Development as its neighborhood business manager.
Although Cowan, who joined Egleston Square Main Street in 2008, will still be working closely with the organization and other Main Streets groups throughout the city, the organization will need a new full-time director to help coordinate efforts in the community to support local businesses and residents advocating for their community’s economy.
While Cowan’s absence leaves a definite void, the move was coordinated in such a way that there shouldn’t be impact to local businesses or the many initiatives in the community the group has helped spearhead.
“They [Cowan and the group’s board] gave enormous thought to make sure there is a smooth transition, so they can continue to provide services,” said Rafael Carbonell, the deputy director of DND’s office of business development, which helps oversee the Main Streets program.
Founded in 1996, Egleston Square Main Street is one of 20 Main Street groups throughout the city that seek to revitalize Boston’s commercial districts. It is funded through private fundraising and federal dollars administered by the city.
A new executive director is expected to be hired by spring, with Giovanna Tapia filling in as the interim-director.
“One of the things they made incredible progress on was building relationships with the merchants,” said Carbonell. “It’s all about connecting the businesses with the residents, other vested organizations, and the city.”
Those on the group’s 11 member board said Cowan was a valuable resource, but added that they are excited for the organization’s next chapter.
“There’s been a lot of progress in the neighborhood and it’s an exciting place to be,” said Galen Moore, a member of the group’s board since 2010. “We’ve built a great deal, we have the merchants involved, we’re working with the police, and a lot of the credit goes to Betsy.”
Calling her the “glue that binds community” and crediting her with boosting merchant participation, Moore said the new executive director will have big shoes to fill.
“We need someone who can help move the ball forward,” said Moore. “The neighborhood is on the cusp of some big changes. These changes are going to happen regardless and the challenge will be to make sure those changes are positive for everyone.”
Juan Gonzalez, the co-president of the group’s board, said the new executive director will have to fill a position that wears many hats.
“We’re looking for a candidate that can cover many tasks, from administration to finances to really connecting to the small businesses,” said Gonzalez. “The merchants are a big component and we need someone who is familiar with small business and what they need.”
Although the group has a solid footing and an involved board, Gonzalez like Moore, said the new director will face a number of challenges.
“One of the biggest challenges will be adjusting to the work,” said Gonzalez. “We need someone to maintain the programs we’ve implanted and build those relationships.”
Gonzalez said Betsy has been an important resource for the community, helping build relationships between the police and merchants and tackling issues like parking and neighborhood cleanliness.
“What we are doing with community safety is definitely a legacy of Betsy,” said Gonzalez. “She was able to bring people together and have those proactive conversations.”
According to Gonzalez, the candidate pool has been narrowed down to four “strong” contenders and the group will be working over the coming weeks to determine the final candidates.
More information about Egleston Square Main Street can be found here.