SOMERVILLE, NJ - Tom Genova, who as chairman of the Downtown Somerville Alliance since 2004 was instrumental in the upgrade and renaissance of the Main Street shopping district and Division Street pedestrian mall, has resigned.
Genova grew up and went to school in Somerville. A commercial and residential developer and Main Street property owner, he is a close friend and ally of former Republican Mayor Brian Gallagher, who resigned Jan. 5 to assume his new responsibilities as an elected Somerset County Freeholder.
Three members of the DSA board, including Genova, left office within a 24-hour period: the resignation of DSA vice chairman, Patrick Mannion, was accepted at Monday night’s special Borough Council meeting, which saw the selection of DSA board member RanD Pitts to fill a vacant seat on the all Democratic Borough Council; Pitts submitted his resignation from the DSA board Tuesday within hours of Genova’s resignation.
Granville Brady, president of the Somerville Borough Council, said Pitts will be appointed as liason to the DSA, a non-voting position.
Pitts sent a short note to the DSA board Tuesday:
"I wanted to inform you of my resignation from the DSA board effective 1/8/2018 due to my Council appointment. It has been a pleasure working with you the past 10 years or more, and watching the great transformation, and progress of our beautiful downtown. I look forward to continue working with everyone going forward as the Council Liaison to the DSA."
Mannion, who had served 17 years on the DSA board, had wanted to step down the past two years, but said Gallagher persuaded him to stay on; once Gallagher moved on, Mannion decided it was his time to step down as well.
"I put my time in, there were a lot of meetings, I just needed a break. I love Somerville, I enjoyed working with the DSA, but 17 years is a longtime," Mannion said.
Following is the text of Genova’s resignation letter circulated to all DSA board members, DSA executive Director Beth Anne Macdonald and members of the Borough Council reads:
“Serving on the Downtown Somerville Alliance Board of Trustees has been both an honor and a privilege. I am very proud of the work towards the success of Downtown Somerville on the board as a trustee beginning in 2004, and for the last 13 years as Chairman.
“That is why it is difficult for me to write this letter of resignation. I will resign my position on the board effective January 9, 2018 at 8 a.m.
“After 14 years of serving as a board member and on countless Mayor’s Ad-Hoc committees, the time has come to step down. Boards need new blood, energy and, perhaps most important, perspective and ideas if they want their organization to flourish. Which means boards need new board members.
“The Downtown Somerville Alliance plays a vital role in the economic vitality of Somerville. New board members are vital to the DSA succession plan.
“To my fellow board members: Your dedicated service has helped the organization go from good to great! Serving with you has helped me to grow in ways that I never imagined. Keep that positive enthusiasm as you serve the business and property owners on Main Street.
“Thank you for allowing me to lead our organization as Chairman. Just because I am ending my service as a board member does not mean I am saying good bye.
“My passion and commitment to Somerville will continue.
"Mayor Brady and Council: Thank you for the time you have committed to Somerville. Today we are experiencing success and that could only be accomplished by working together as a team putting the best interest of Somerville ahead of any other.”
Brady asked that the meeting be postponed until Jan. 23 to allow members of the council to interview candidates for the DSA board. Seven members of the DSA board remain: Chris Petrosini, treasurer; Rick St. Pierre; Ron Aulenbach; Leigh McLachlan; Mallori Seader; Brittany Burton and Eric Staller.
There are five vacancies on the 12-member board.
“I canceled the meeting because it makes no sense to have a skeleton crew,” Brady said. “I fully believe we’ll have the appointments no later than February.”
“Tom was wonderful to work with,” said Macdonald, hired as executive director by the DSA and a paid employee since the spring of 2012. “He gave his heart and soul to the community and I’m sure as a property owner he will continue to do as much as possible to help downtown.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming a new chairman and new leadership,” she added. “I certainly intend to stay on as long as the DSA leadership would like me to; we have a great year ahead of us, with new businesses opening up, it’s an exciting time.”
Brady agrees, emphasizing that continuity is critical.
“She has a stellar reputation; that should help strengthen her position,” Brady said. “More than anything else, she may be the only person left who knows where the restrooms are.”