In another shakeup, DownTown Issaquah Association leader resigns

December 13, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

The leader of the DownTown Issaquah Association resigned Dec. 6 — after only a few months on the job and less than a year after board members replaced the organization’s longtime executive director.

Executive Director Annique Bennett joined the organization as cultural events coordinator in early spring and then, months after another employee left the organization, board members promoted Bennett to the top spot.

“I have not been empowered by the DIA board to accomplish the goals they set for themselves or for me,” she said in a resignation emailed to association board members. “I have enjoyed working with each of you and wish you the best of luck on your community wine events and marketing.”

The announcement came a day before a major event on the DownTown Issaquah Association calendar, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the historic Hailstone Feed Store.

“The DIA board is deeply saddened by the sudden resignation of Annique Bennett,” board President Lynn Rehn said. “Her contribution and ideas have given our organization a much needed jump start. The board is in full agreement that we had empowered her with all of our available resources and given her all of our support to accomplish her goals and ours.”

Bennett recently traveled to the United Kingdom after her husband transferred to London for work, and she postponed the decision to return. Meanwhile, board members in Issaquah needed to proceed on plans for coming events, such as a February wine walk.

“We wish Annique and her husband all the best as they embark on their new life in the U.K.,” Rehn said.

The board plans to start the search for another executive director next month.

Bennett came onboard at the DownTown Issaquah Association after a staff shakeup.

Starting last year, the board redefined the roles for association employees and, in February, decided to let go of longtime Executive Director Greg Spranger.

In February, then-DownTown Issaquah Association President David Irons said the organization intended to pursue a different approach to boosting downtown businesses and programs. (Irons has since left the organization, too.)

DownTown Issaquah Association board members decided to scrap the executive director position and, after Spranger applied for the replacement position — community relations manager — the board hired another candidate, Tanya Alter.

Longtime Cultural Events Manager Michael Johnson resigned after the board decided not to select Spranger.

The board’s decision prompted angry letters to the editor and bad blood among some downtown merchants and supporters. Spranger helped launch ArtWalk, led the effort to restore the Hailstone Feed Store, and supported the Fenders on Front Street Car Show and Cruise and countless other community events.

(The city provides grant dollars to the DownTown Issaquah Association to produce events, including ArtWalk and Fenders on Front Street.)

In the late spring, Alter left the organization. Then, months after she departed, board members decided to combine the community relations and cultural events staff positions into the executive director role for Bennett.

Rehn praised Bennett for putting the organization on solid footing for 2012.

“However, the good news is that Annique did outstanding work and leaves behind a clear path for us to accomplish all of our 2012 goals,” Rehn said. “Annique has done the prep work and all we need to do is execute the plan.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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