Downtown State College Improvement District Executive Director Rob Schmidt is leaving the organization to pursue teaching and consulting interests, the DID board of directors announced on Thursday.
Marketing and communications director Lee Anne Jeffries, who joined the DID with Schmidt in 2018, has been named the new executive director.
“It’s time for me to take a step back and refocus my energy in different ways.” said Schmidt, who has been an adjunct faculty member at Penn State for more than 20 years.
In a statement, the board expressed gratitude to Schmidt for his three years of service, commending his leadership in strengthening partnerships. Schmidt was instrumental in forming a national town and gown group focused on challenges facing downtowns in college communities.
Jeffries, meanwhile, has used her “creative background and passion for her hometown” to help reimagine DID initiatives for advancing the nonprofit organization’s mission of supporting the downtown business and cultural community.
“When the pandemic hit, the staff was well positioned to aid constituents through these unprecedented times,” the statement said.
Through the pandemic, the DID has found new and important ways to support its members, from helping them navigate government programs to securing and distributing hard-to-find supplies. The organization’s staff developed a buy-one, get-one gift card program that resulted in $100,000 for downtown businesses, and they promoted community spirit through initiatives like the Heart of Happy Valley puzzle, supporting the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and the first Light Up Downtown holiday light show at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.
Sharon Herlocher, chair of the DID Board of Directors, said Schmidt is leaving the organization in a strong position and they are confident in Jeffries’ leadership moving forward.
“This feels like a graduation. Rob made his mark and is ready for his next step,” Herlocher said. “He and the board are confident in Lee Anne’s abilities. She’s proven to be a creative action-minded leader. These traits make this transition smoother and will allow us to continue pursuing our mission to enhance the value and vitality of Downtown State College.”