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This year’s Midtown Business Association elections come at ‘pivotal moment’

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Candidates for the Midtown Business Association’s June 20 elections will need to be able to cast aside their own business goals and work together to make Midtown a better business environment as the organization goes through a transition, according to MBA staff and business owners alike.

“We’re at this pivotal point in Midtown, and I’d like to see a focus on the greater good – a sustainable Midtown business environment,” said Kimio Bazett of The Golden Bear and the upcoming Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

Ten of the 25 Midtown Business Association Board of Directors seats are open to be filled by June 20, and only about seven incumbents are returning, meaning the organization will see new faces in its leadership, said Executive Director Elizabeth Studebaker.

“There are certain issues we are always focused on: trash, security, graffiti abatement and those sorts of things,” Studebaker said. “What I’m hoping we will also be focusing on is a new identity for the MBA that is focused on working very closely with the small business community and developing those businesses in whatever ways we can.”

Candidates must own property within the Midtown business improvement district or own businesses in the greater Midtown area, which stretches from 16th to 29th streets and from C to W streets.

Candidates must submit applications by May 11, after which the organization’s nomination committee will review them, selecting eligible candidates.

MBA members will have the opportunity to cast their votes at the June 20 board meeting.

“I want someone that wants to invest in their community,” said MBA Board President Jimmy Johnson of the Mexican restaurant Zócalo. “There are a lot of time requirements because we all serve on one or two committees.”

Johnson said restaurateurs, bar owners and developers are well represented, and he would like to see a commercial real estate broker to provide expertise to attract more businesses – specifically strong retail chains.

“I’d like to see something cool like an Apple store or an Anthropologie come in here,” he said. “A chain retailer like that would be a great addition to Midtown.”

Board Vice President Beth Hassett, of WEAVE, Inc., will become president June 20 and said she is looking for candidates who can put the greater Midtown interests above their own business goals.

“One of the big challenges for this as part of the board is that you have a lot of people with a dog in the fight,” she said. “It’s important to be able to take off your business owner hat and put on the hat of what’s better for the greater good in Midtown.”

Hassett said the past year has seen the MBA board strengthening its cooperative efforts, and she hopes to see that continue with whoever is elected to the board in June.

Corey DeRoo, co-owner of French Cuff Consignment, said she is happy with the way the MBA has been progressing since Studebaker took over the organization in January.

“It’s a renaissance,” she said. “It’s a true rebirth. Having been a longtime business owner in Midtown, I can honestly say I’m excited about it again.”

DeRoo added that Studebaker is setting a strong example of working together – something she said is essential to the local economy.

“It’s really hard for business owners to remain impartial because there is a dog-eat-dog environment,” DeRoo said. “Personally, I have always appreciated the types of board members who can see past that and see that Midtown businesses are all stronger as one unit.”

She said her ideal situation is to have a governing body that values each segment of the market equally, not placing emphasis on any one type of business.

Bazett, of The Golden Bear, agreed that cooperation between the MBA and businesses is key, and he said that Studebaker’s overhaul of the organization allows for the reexamination of priorities.

“This notion of protecting the appearance by graffiti abatement and reaching out to the homeless and trying to get tenants back in, it seems like a simple concept, but it hasn’t been a priority before,” he said.

Bazett said he looks at the district from a business point of view, but also as a resident, and he applauded Studebaker’s efforts to reach out to residents over the past four months.

“Elizabeth has made real efforts to listen to the residents and mitigate some of the tension that’s been building for years now,” he said. “She’s taken real efforts to see both sides of the coin.”

Both Bazett and DeRoo said they will not be seeking a board position, but they agreed that the MBA needs board members who will adapt to the changes in the organization in the coming years.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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