SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Village Center Alliance has named its first events and operations coordinator.
Melissa Hodge, a resident of East Orange, comes to the job from a similar position New York City. Hodge was district services manager at the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, where her main duties included communication with local shops, sanitation and special events.
“I was responsible for direct outreach with local businesses,” Hodge said. “I managed our annual fashion show. I oversaw our sanitation, our ‘Clean Team,’ just to ensure district conditions.”
One of Hodge’s other responsibilities was improving the ambiance of her communities. She said one way she was able to help beautify the streets was a storefront sign improvement program.
“It focused on front window displays for businesses,” Hodge said, “which would hopefully help attract new customers. Just really beautifying the area, making it a vibrant area to come and shop.”
Before working in Jamaica, Hodge worked for eight years monitoring the street conditions at the Metrotech and Fulton Mall Business Improvement Districts in Brooklyn.
“Melissa brings several years of great experience to us here in South Orange, and she will undoubtedly be a tremendous addition to the SOVCA team,” said Bob Zuckerman, the organization’s executive director, in a press release. “We set out to hire the best candidate for this important role, and we are all confident that we have achieved that goal by hiring Melissa.”
Hodge said that beautifying a town is one of her strongest abilities because of her experience doing it.
“For 10 years my eye has been trained to look at street conditions and work with Public Works and our team to really beautify and address what other issues are in the area,” she said.
Hodge said one of the main day-to-day activities was building strong relationships with local businesses and getting them involved in the community, which is another skill that she can bring with her to South Orange.
“(I want to) be a strong staff member and really help bring their (SOVCA) vision to light to the area,” she said. “Again, getting our businesses involved.”
When she’s not working at Village Hall or not running an event, Hodge said that she is probably spending time with her 5-year-old daughter.
“All of my energy goes into doing activities with my daughter,” Hodge said. “She takes dance classes across the street. When I’m not working, I’m spending as much time as possible with my daughter and really just engaging her in activities.”
Hodge describes herself as shy, but said that doesn’t stop her from building relationships with businesses and improving her town.
“I’m pretty much quiet and straightforward, but I’m hardworking, dedicated and passionate about what I do,” Hodge said. “I’m very committed to watching change happen in the neighborhood.”