Center City names interim leader

Elaine Morris Roberts, a former Springfield News-Sun reporter and freelancer, will replace outgoing executive director Maureen Fagans, who will leave the position after five years to serve in the same role at United Senior Services.

The announcement was made at the downtown organization’s annual meeting at Clark State Community College’s Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center, which highlights the downtown group’s projects from the previous year and looks ahead to this year.

Morris Roberts, a Springfield resident who received a doctorate in education from the University of Cincinnati, will begin Monday. She said she’s excited about the position and hopes to hit the ground running with some help from Fagans.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” Morris Roberts said. “I was honored to be included in the process and thrilled that they decided to make me an offer. I’m looking forward to seeing what type of positive change I can be a part of.”

Steven McCready, the board’s vice president, said a three- to six-month search will be held to find the organization’s next executive director. He told members he was happy to have Morris Roberts, who said she would be interested in applying for the permanent spot as well.

“She brings positive qualities and relationships to the position,” McCready said.

The group also honored its outgoing director. Joe Jackson, a past board president who headed the search committee that hired Fagans, said she’s been a “driving force” behind the success of Center City. She worked on growing downtown with new businesses, and re-invigorating the group’s main event, Holiday in the City.

“She turned out to be the right candidate at the right time,” Jackson said.

Fagans said the group has prospered because of its many members and volunteers. The group had more than 3,000 volunteers and 100 partners last year.

A few of the group’s big projects last year included focusing on a downtown retail district and driving crows out of downtown. Fagans is also excited about the city’s plans to convert one block of North Fountain Avenue, between Columbia and Main streets, from one-way to two-way to help economic development.

As part of the program, Thomas Jefferson impersonator Clay Straus Jenkinson gave a presentation on the third president’s views on government and cities, as well as a question-and-answer session.

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