Brenda Weatherly, the longest-serving executive director in the Hollister Downtown Association’s 30-year history, announced to her staff on June 12 that she is stepping down to pursue other interests.
Weatherly, 54, is the sixth person to serve in her role. She was retained to lead the organization that dedicates itself to the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Hollister in 2005, just as tremendous changes and challenges were about to confront historic retail districts throughout California.
According to an HDA press release, “agent for change” is what would best describe Weatherly’s personal and professional leadership style.
During her tenure, the cadre of volunteers grew each year and membership is at a record high. The HDA organizes a full suite of events to bring visitors downtown. It offers networking and collaboration opportunities and an endowment fund was established. Under Weatherly’s leadership, the Farmers' Market moved onto Hollister’s main street, and swelled to more than 100 vendors weekly. The HDA release noted that "there are scores of smaller accomplishments, from a lively Web presence to moving to a more accessible office on Monterey Street."
But Weatherly and HDA Vice President Daniel Recht were quick to point out the single most significant change in the organization over the past 12 years: “We’ve transitioned from solely a business organization to a community-based organization.” Weatherly said. “Year after year we’ve been able to increase volunteer participation. It’s nice to have a large number of people helping reach our goals. It’s especially nice that they understand the value to their community.”
The Hollister Downtown Association was born in 1987 as an outgrowth of Hollister’s recognition as a “Main Street City.” The designation not only recognized the historic significance of the downtown area, but its potential as a long-term cog in the larger community’s economic engine.
"Overnight, it went from an independent nonprofit corporation with robust governmental support to one that had to make its own way," the HDA release noted. "Thus, the shift from an organization focused on business support to one that embraces a larger, community-wide commitment to locally driven economic vitality. It was not entirely a matter of choice, but the way that the HDA embraced an unanticipated challenge as other similar organizations withered says much about the HDA’s vitality.
In 2012, the State of California – saddled with economic challenges stemming from the Great Recession – elected to close all of California’s redevelopment agencies, and the landscape for local communities shifted dramatically.
In the wake of the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies, HDA worked to re-establish connections with county and city agencies as well as local nonprofits with similar missions, including the Business Council, EDC and the Chamber of Commerce.
“Establishing a true partnership with the city of Hollister was vitally important,” Weatherly said. With Recht echoing: “It was the key to greater success.”
President Jan Holthouse stated, “The HDA has been extremely lucky to have had Brenda as our executive director for the last 12 years. Our organization is in a much better place because of Brenda’s leadership.”
The most enjoyable part of Weatherly’s 12 years on the job, she said, has been “establishing where we’ve wanted to take the organization and getting it to that point. The relationships we enjoy with business owners and property owners, and the city. It’s nice to have played a role in it all. I wasn’t all my doing though: I have had the good fortune of working with a very good board, excellent staff and dedicated volunteers over the years. It takes a team to do this.”
Weatherly noted that she has enjoyed representing Hollister as a board member and president of the California Main Street Alliance, and at the State and National level Main Street conferences.
“Making connections with other Main Street programs and Executive Directors has been invaluable to the HDA,” shestated.
Weatherly will not be entirely leaving the HDA. Plans for the summer after her official departure on June 30 include steering it through the selection process for a new executive director, and seeing that the subsequent transition is smooth.
“Brenda’s long-term role has made her a brand ambassador for the HDA,” Recht said.
Beyond that, she looks forward to a summer of relaxation before exploring other career opportunities.
Weatherly is a graduate of California State University, Fresno, and has a deep background in marketing, advertising and community development. She recently obtained certification as a life coach. She and her husband, Ken, are the parents of three adult children.
“My departure provides the opportunity for the next person to bring energy and new ideas to the organization for its continued growth and success,” she said. “I am just proud to now be a part of its successful history.”
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