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Posted: 08/28/13

Village grants approval
for new DDA director

Observer Staff Writer
      A new face will become the face of the Romeo Downtown Development Authority (DDA).
       On Aug. 19, the Village Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to the DDA hiring Judy Sproat as its new executive director. Village President Mike Lee was the dissenting vote.
       DDA Chairperson Randy Seidel said the DDA has gone through the interview and hiring process for about five months for the part-time position. The DDA voted 5-0 at a special meeting on Aug. 16 to hire Sproat and bring her before the village trustees for final approval.
       Sproat formerly worked as the DDA director in Holly, the marketing director in Rochester and the executive director of the planning and economic development department in New Baltimore. She said she hopes to bring her expertise to Romeo and maintain revitalization efforts.
       "I appreciate communities that rally around their small businesses and particularly maintaining the historic integrity of a downtown, and obviously Romeo is the benchmark for that," she said.
       Lee said his objection wasn't to Sproat, but to the fact that the DDA was supporting a $24,000 position despite losing $14,500 in tax revenue this year.
       "I just have an issue spending the money," he said.
       Seidel said the DDA approved of an adjusted budget at its Aug. 14 meeting, shrinking funding in downtown decorations, marketing and other areas.
       "It's not an elimination of anything that we're currently doing, it's a reduction in some of the things that we're doing today," he said.
       Board members spoke in favor of a DDA executive director. Trustee Bob Hart, a former DDA chairperson, said the Village Council shouldn't second-guess what the DDA decided.
       "They have debated this, they put it forth and that is how they want to spend the money," he said.
       Trustee Christine Malzahn, also a former DDA chairperson, said as a downtown business owner she would appreciate the leadership that someone like Sproat can bring.
       "I think it's key that we have one central body that can take a look at what benefits<how can we keep our downtown vibrant, how can we bring new businesses to town," she said.
       Trustee Mike Cregar said a vibrant downtown can benefit the community as a whole.
       "That helps property tax values in the downtown area, but also as a resident it's a reflection on my property value too," he said.
       Sproat's start date and business hours are currently in the works, though Seidel said the position would hold regular hours. The executive director will typically work 20 hours a week and handle day-to-day operations for the DDA.

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