PLAINFIELD, NJ - The search is over. The Plainfield Central Business District's new Executive Director, Antoinette Brevard, was introduced at the city council's agenda fixing session on March 4.
The council had voted in favor of an ordinance in December 2017 to bring the Special Improvement District, or SID, under the control of the city with an appointed Central Business District Management Corporation that would operate and manage the district, and the Central Business District Advisory Board that would have budgetary and reporting functions.
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Jeff Spelman, the President of the district management corporation, said, " It was quite a competitive search. We had a search committee, we had over a hundred people apply for the position, we did face-to-face interviews with a dozen people, and we brought the two finalists to the full board."
Spelman said Brevard is a resident of Paterson, is a community organizer, and is well-versed in the Main Street methodology. She also has a master's degree in public policy.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Brevard's areas of expertise include "administrative leadership, program development, fiscal oversight, grant management, adhering to regulatory guidelines, training colleagues and program supervision."
A few days after the council meeting, TAPinto Plainfield caught up with Brevard for an informal chat over a cappuccino at The Coffee Box, Spelman's business on South Avenue.
Tell us about your background.
My background has included work with non-profits, educational organizations, and public safety in Paterson. I've worked for several churches, in the community development organizations around them, with social services, summer learning and after-school programs, as well as bridge programs.
So what brought you to Plainfield?
You know, the opportunity seemed so exciting. That was way back in late summer. And then, it became a challenge because they had too many hurdles. (She chuckled here.) They did. But it made me appreciate that they were really looking for someone who they thought would bring the best of themselves. It wasn't a cakewalk.
I felt that my skill set would be a good match. I'm a lifelong learner, so I know a lot about a lot, like downtown strategies, and the Main Street Approach™. Those kinds of things I felt would be good for the job.
How do you see yourself best reaching out to the businesses in town?
The thing that always works is great relationships. The human network is amazing. I am planning to visit every business, to observe and learn.
I'm hoping that we'll get our own website, and to have each of the businesses on the site with links to their sites. Those smaller organizations who don't already have those necessarily tools, we can help them get them. And businesses should be able to log into our site and get pertinent information and resources.
At this point, Spelman popped into the conversation, saying that they are searching for a storefront office, something within walking distance of City Hall.
He added, "like what we learned in Plainfield Vision 2025 is that we have everything and nobody knows about it. So I think one of the things we'll be able to do is to help people access those resources, like the sign and facade grants, all of the programs that the library has to offer, we can work with Dr. Nazir if we need more food safety classes, and partner with organizations like duCret and the Plainfield Arts Council to glue the cultural organizations and the businesses together."
Spelman said there is work to be done. "As Plainfield changes, and big developers come in, bringing potentially more Millennial types, how does that blend with the existing mom and pop businesses?"
He remarked that a lot of the focus thus far has been getting the house ready, so to speak, including the incorporation, the legal setup, and the hiring of an Executive Director.
Spelman added that they will coordinate with the 150th anniversary committee on things like a 'Taste of Plainfield' event.
We concluded our talk, with Brevard saying, "My first job is to create our identity and collect our resources. And I'm really excited and optimistic about where we are going."
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