The Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin has picked one of its board members to serve as its new executive director.
Deirdre Higgins-White, who's served on the DNA board for about 2½ years, will assume her new duties Aug. 12. Former managing director Jason Pawlowski left July 5 for a job as marketing manager with the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. Higgins-White is director of marketing and events at YWCA Elgin, a post she's held for about five years. She's also a past president of the Elgin Junior Service Board.
"I'm really fortunate. I had a great run in downtown Elgin thus far, and I want to build on that," Higgins-White said. "It's just a new challenge. It was a very difficult decision to make because I love the YWCA."
She served as a volunteer for DNA for several years, doing work with the Fourth of July committee and various events, including the annual fundraising gala.
DNA board President Karin Jones said the DNA's hiring committee, which comprises a majority of board members, only interviewed White for the position.
"She's got a proven track record working with our organization," Jones said. "She knows the ins and outs of the organization, and what's involved in the role that she will be going into. We just felt like it would be a smooth transition for everybody."
Higgins-White said she wants to get people to "embrace downtown Elgin."
"People don't want to go downtown because they think it's scary," she said. "But we don't have the crime that people think we have. The downtown area is such a beautiful area -- we have the best nonprofits, the best volunteers, great restaurants. All the business owners are like, 'Hey, how are you?' It really is one big family."
Higgins-White said her first move will be to meet with business owners and community groups to talk about their needs and what downtown has to offer. Long-term, she wants to help revitalize downtown, she said.
"We want to get shop fronts filled and have a booming metropolis in downtown Elgin," she said. "It's on its way."
DNA also has a couple of part-time employees, seasonal interns and a pool of about 200 employees, Jones said. Its annual budget is about $250,000, roughly half from the city of Elgin.