SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Borough Council is moving quickly to rebuild the Downtown Somerville Alliance, filling three vacancies on the DSA Board of Directors during its Tuesday night meeting.

The new members will be sworn to office at the DSA’s Jan. 23 Reorganization Meeting.

Two vacancies remain, but are expected to be filled prior to the reorganization.

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The new members are Gina Stravic, executive director of the Raritan Valley YMCA in East Brunswick and chair of the borough’s Environmental Commission; Rinaldo Linares, owner of Martino’s Cuban restaurant on West Main Street and Anthony Monetti, a body builder and health and nutrition expert who is the owner of Bodhi by Anthony on West Main Street.

They will join the seven members that remain: Chris Petrosini, treasurer; Rick St. Pierre; Ron Aulenbach; Leigh McLachlan; Mallori Seader; Brittany Burton and Eric Staller.

Election of a new DSA chairman is expected at the Jan. 23 meeting; the board will also need to create and adopt a budget for 2018. 

The DSA appointments were overshadowed by the council’s appointment of Republican Ellen Brain as the borough’s first female mayor at Tuesday’s meeting. She fills the unexpired term of former Mayor Brian Gallagher for the next 10 months. He resigned Jan. 5 after serving 14 years as mayor to be sworn as a Somerset County Freeholder.

Membership on the 12-member DSA board had dwindled down to seven, with three officers resigning the board within a 24-hour period between Jan. 8-9.

Gone are former chairman Tom Genova, who presided over the DSA board for 13 years; former vice-chair Pat Mannion, who had served on the DSA board for 17 years and secretary RanD Pitts, who was tapped by the All-Democratic Borough Council to fill a vacancy created when Steve Peter, former president of the Borough Council, resigned Dec. 31 to be sworn to higher office as Somerset County Clerk.

Pitts, owner of the Evolve clothing store on West Main St., was sworn in Jan. 8 and has been appointed council liason to the DSA, according to Granville Brady, Borough Council president.

The Borough Council, which appoints the members of the DSA, has been interviewing potential replacements, according to Brady. He and Councilwoman Jane Kobuta and Councilman Dennis Sullivan are conducting the interviews.

Applications to serve as a DSA member are still being accepted according to Brady. A candidate must either be a resident of the borough, a property owner or business owner within the designated downtown shopping district.  Further information is available by calling Kevin Sluka, borough clerk, at (908) 725-2300.

Members of the DSA are either borough residents, Main Street property owners or business owners within the designated downtown business district. The DSA functions as a quasi-governmental agency, whose members are appointed by the Borough Council. The DSA oversees and promulgates policies affecting promotion, infrastructure, events, maintenance and other matters affecting commerce, traffic and development in the downtown district. The DSA also assesses a tax on property owners; last year’s operating budget was $552,200. The DSA has employed Beth Anne Macdonald as executive director since 2012 and Chris Blockus as program coordinator since last year.

The DSA mission statement reads: “The Downtown Somerville Alliance, a Main Street New Jersey Community, promotes, enhances and revitalizes Somerville’s downtown as a thriving commercial district and community-gathering place for residents, shoppers and visitors from Somerville, Somerset County and Central New Jersey.”

The resignations of Genova and Mannion were not unexpected.

Genova, who had served as DSA chairman since 2004, was instrumental in the upgrade and renaissance of the Main Street shopping district and Division Street pedestrian mall.

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 Gallagher.

 “After 14 years of serving as a board member and on countless Mayor’s Ad-Hoc committees, the time has come to step down,” he said in his resignation letter. “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,” he added.

Mannion, owner of Mannion’s Irish Pub, Restaurant and sports bar 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 long time," Mannion said.