BRATTLEBORO -- Building a Better Brattleboro has named Jacob Roberts as the new Downtown Coordinator for the town's Designated Downtown Organization.
Roberts will work half-time, taking over for former Executive Director Andrea Livermore who left BABB in April.
Roberts moved to Brattleboro in 2011 and he is the co-owner of Equilibrium, a cafe, art gallery and health center that was located on Elm Street and closed recently.
He has also done development and marketing work in Ithaca and Syracuse, N.Y. and in Santa Cruz, Cal.
Roberts joined the BABB board seven months ago and said he started thinking about applying for the downtown coordinator position soon after learning that Livermore would be stepping down.
Over the summer he says, he got more serious about the opportunity and he signed a contract with the BABB board last week.
"Every where I have lived I have been civicly engaged," he said Thursday. "I want to be involved and better the community where I live. This really feels like a position where I will be able to do that."
Roberts comes on to help lead BABB as the group finds itself in the middle of a transition.
The board cut down the leadership position to save money and is operating with a part-time director for the first time.
BABB recently sold the River Garden, another big change, and with a new director also coming on at the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, work being completed at the Brooks House and steady but slow growth in the economy, Roberts begins his position in a downtown that looks very different than the one Livermore left when she resigned.
BABB Board President Donna Simons said Roberts is the perfect person to take over at a time when the group is very much taking a hard look at the work it does and trying to develop a new path into the future.
"We feel like we have someone who recently moved here because he loved the area and who is excited about downtown Brattleboro and about making this a better community," Simons said. "We are excited. I think he brings a breath of fresh air. We feel very fortunate."
Simons said that while BABB is only a few months into its fiscal year, the group is preparing its budget for 2015 and getting ready to submit the new spending plan to the Selectboard for approval.
After the holidays the BABB board is going to hold a retreat with Roberts to talk about the coming year and about the challenges and opportunities the downtown merchants will face.
"Business is still not great for a lot of people but it does feel like things are getting better downtown. We are seeing more feet on the ground and people have the feeling like something good is happening," Simon said. "We want to help merchants and reach out to the property owners. I feel like the glass is half full at this point."
Following the sale of the River Garden BABB moved out of the building and Jacobs is setting up the group's new office on the second floor of a Main Street building a few doors down from the River Garden.
While Roberts and the board are looking forward, immediately they have the holiday season to promote.
Roberts says he has to make sure the lights and tree get up, there is Small Business Saturday the weekend after Thanksgiving to promote and he said he knows the next five weeks are some of the most important business days of the entire year for many merchants.
The big picture projects will have to wait, he said, for now, but there will plenty of time to meet the merchants and property owners and figure out a way to make downtown Brattleboro better for everyone who visits and lives here.
"I don't have a silver bullet to take care of everything but I want to get out there and meet people and tell them who I am," Roberts said. "I feel like this is a really good time to be here in Brattleboro. It's a great town and I'm really excited to see what I can do to help make it better. Mostly I want to let people know I am here for them and that I am willing to listen. I'm going to get people involved and try to get everyone to work together to make things better."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.