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San Jose Downtown Association completes search for new CEO

The San Jose Downtown Association has recruited from the “Biggest Little City in the World” to fill the shoes of outgoing CEO Scott Knies. who is stepping down after 34 years with the advocacy organization.

Alex Stettinski, executive director of Downtown Reno Partnership, has been hired from among nearly four dozen candidates following a six-month national search, the Downtown Association announced Monday. Stettinksi will take over Oct. 4, and Knies will remain on board until Nov. 4 to help with the transition.

“When I walk the streets of downtown San Jose, I see so much potential, and I believe I will bring a fresh outlook to problem-solving and placemaking,” said Stettinski, an avid bicyclist who was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and first came to California in 1989 to attend grad school at UC Berkeley. He plans to live in downtown San Jose.

Alan “Gumby” Marques, president of the San Jose Downtown Association board, said the search committee was drawn to Stettinski’s work with business improvement districts, along with his focus on marketing, business retention and support for the arts.

Stettinski took the helm at Downtown Reno Partnership when the business improvement district was created in August 2018. He previously had been executive director of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and was vice president of operations and strategic planning for Visit West Hollywood. He also spent six years as executive director of the Avenues of Art & Design, which is now known as the the West Hollywood Design District.

“The committee was particularly interested in learning of a Clean and Safe program Alex built in Reno which brought various community leaders together to identify compassionate and award-winning solutions to homelessness,” Marques said.

Scott Knies of the San Jose Downtown Association speaks in 2017 to the media about Google’s plans for downtown San Jose. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group) 

The San Jose Downtown Association was founded in 1986 by Metro Publisher Dan Pulcrano and photographer Ray Rodriguez. Knies was hired as its first executive director two years later after the creation of a business improvement district — property owners in the downtown district are assessed a fee that pays for the Downtown Association’s work. Today, it represents more than 2,000 downtown businesses and its big successes have included the summer Music in the Park series, the Downtown Ice Skating Rink, the outdoor movie series Starlight Cinemas, the Downtown Farmers Market and the Dine Downtown restaurant week, which starts July 21 this year.

Additionally, the Downtown Association has curated more than 100 murals downtown, created dog parks, and last year helped create the SoFA Pocket Park, in association with Veggielution and the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, in a dilapidated former parking lot on South First Street.

Stettinski also will manage the Property Based Improvement District (PBID), which is best known for the Groundwerx crew that cleans up and beautifies downtown streets, and the San Jose Downtown Foundation, which runs the Downtown Doors art program that adorns utility boxes and doors with student art.

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