December 26, 2012

City Pages

Director Leaving ADDA

Kathryn Lookofsky will be out in June after seven years as executive director of the Athens Downtown Development Authority.

During an ADDA board meeting last week, Lookofsky opted to leave at the end of her contract, which expires June 30, according to Chairwoman Erica Cascio. "The outcome was, she isn't going to seek to extend her contract," said Cascio, the owner of Square One Fish Co.

Cascio nor Lookofsky would say why she is leaving. "I truly love Downtown Athens and the Athens community," Lookofsky said. "I am very happy to have had a chance to serve this great community and am very excited about the future of Downtown Athens. I currently have no plans, but I would love to stay in the area."

Other board members either didn't respond to requests for comment or referred questions to Cascio, who said she couldn't discuss most of what happened during the approximately two-hour meeting. All but a few minutes were closed to the public, as Georgia law allows for personnel discussions. "The rest of it was all privileged, personnel," Cascio said. "I can't discuss it."

The vote to accept Lookofsky's resignation was unanimous. Following the meeting, ADDA parking director Laura Miller also submitted her resignation.

Lookofsky was scheduled for a performance review Dec. 11, but the ADDA board postponed it until Dec. 18 because two members had to leave for another meeting, leaving the group without a quorum. 

An entirely different ADDA board—all seven members have since turned over—hired Lookofsky away from a similar position in Jonesboro in 2006 to replace Art Jackson. At the time, board members praised her enthusiasm and people skills. Since then, she has relentlessly championed a downtown master plan, downtown merchants and downtown activities like the Athens Farmers Market. Development downtown is booming, with the new Washington Street parking deck opening and several major projects planned.

"She's awesome," said Jane Scott, a former ADDA board member who owns Native America Gallery. "She's smart, she's sassy, she gets stuff done, and most importantly, she cares about Athens. She loves Athens. It's hard to find people with that kind of passion.

"I have a problem with anything, I call her, she gets results," Scott said. "She understands how downtown works. If she leaves, it's a huge loss for Athens."

But keeping diverse constituents like retailers and bar owners or college students and older visitors happy is no easy task. And downtown has continued to struggle with familiar problems, notably cleanliness and parking. Some board members have accused Lookofsky of not being active enough in addressing those problems. Commissioner Mike Hamby, in particular, has been pushing Lookofsky to come up with solutions.

Lookofsky also disagreed with some of the board's recent decisions, such as moving the ADDA's office from the Fred Building on College Avenue to the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

The ADDA board will discuss hiring a new executive director at its January meeting, Cascio said. "We're pretty sure it's going to be a lengthy process," she said. "We have six-and-a-half months to get it done."