Old Town Cape narrows leadership choices to three

Thursday, September 30, 2004

There are a lot of new developments in Old Town Cape.

A week after the downtown improvement organization unveiled its plans to merge with the Downtown Merchants Association, Old Town Cape has announced that its search for a new executive director is one big step closer to completion. On Wednesday, president Steven Hoffman of the organization's board of directors said that three finalists have been selected out of 12 applicants for the position, which has been open since Catherine Dunlap resigned Aug. 25.

The final three include two experienced applicants from out of state and a local man who is determined to make a difference in the community.

"I think all three candidates possess the core credentials necessary for the job," Hoffman said. He called the candidates' common traits as organizational and motivational skills. However, that is where the similarities end.

Cynthia McGill is an applicant from Lincoln, Ill. For the past three years, she has been executive director of Main Street Lincoln, a Main Street organization much like Old Town Cape. Before that, she did not-for-profit work with the Easter Seals in Bloomington, Ill. McGill said in Main Street Lincoln's 10 years of existence, downtown Lincoln has seen much improvement. She is looking to bring similar success to Cape Girardeau.

"I want to do the same thing we've done here," McGill said. "I want to create an excitement and an awareness that downtown is important."

Although she currently lives further away than the other applicants, Danielle Hall knows a bit about Cape Girardeau. In 1996, she received her bachelor's degree in historical preservation from Southeast Missouri State University. Since then, Hall received her master's degree in the same field from the University of Eastern Michigan. She currently works with the city of Detroit. For the past five years, she's worked with that city's Historic District Commission, overseeing projects in that area's revitalization.

Hall said she's followed the development of Cape Girardeau and understands that a lot has changed in the years since she left. She hopes to help continue the area's recent growth.

"Don't change things that are working," Hall said. "There are already a lot of great ideas floating around. We need to work with the businesses that are already there to attract more businesses."

The excitement surrounding downtown Cape Girardeau is part of what attracted Tim Arbeiter to the position. Raised in Cape Girardeau, Arbeiter said he wasn't really looking for a new career, but when he came across the posting for this job, it made him stop.

"What a great way to make an impact on the community," Arbeiter said. "There aren't a lot of jobs that can do that."

Arbeiter is currently a member of the Cape Girardeau Board of Education and assistant director of the University Center at Southeast. He said although he doesn't have much experience in running a not-for-profit organization, he brings other things to the table. Arbeiter points to his bachelor's in finance and his master's in guidance and counseling from Southeast, and his life experience in the area.

"Although he doesn't have the Main Street experience, in his application he was able to tie his education and experience into the position," Hoffman said of Arbeiter. "He convinced us he could run a non-profit very effectively."

The interview

Hoffman said he plans to have the first of the three interviews during the second week of October. But these won't be your pop-in, pop-out chats. He said each interview will be a day-long affair.

Each applicant will start out by having lunch with a few board members, followed by a tour of downtown Cape Girardeau. At some point thereafter, each candidate will have one-on-one interviews with several city officials, including city manager Doug Leslie, John Mehner of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and Chuck Martin with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. They will also have a phone interview with Sheri Stewart, Cape Girardeau's regional representative from the National Main Street Center.

After dinner, the day will be capped with a public presentation where the public can informally talk with the candidate. Certain key community members will be invited, but anyone interested is welcome to attend.

"We feel that the people that the director will interact with on a daily basis should have some input on the decision," Hoffman said.

The interview will conclude the next morning when the candidate has a final meeting with the Old Town Cape Search Committee, which consists of the Executive Committee and board members Heather Brooks and Jim Maurer.

Hoffman said he hope to have all three interviews done by the end of October. Although that would make a decision and subsequent announcement possible in November, Hoffman said that Dec. 1 is a more realistic date by which the result will be made public.

When Dunlap announced she was leaving Old Town Cape, the reason given was that the organization was ready for a director that would expand its redevelopment efforts and take what Dunlap has built up and move ahead. Hoffman is confident that this final field of three contains that answer.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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