Renaissance board member to lead volunteer group
DANVILLE – Renaissance Danville board members have turned to one of their own to fill the nonprofit organization's executive director position.
On Friday, the Renaissance board announced Ann Wells, a longtime Danville resident and real estate broker, as its next leader.
Wells has been a Renaissance board member, was recognized as Volunteer of the Year in 2006 and believes in the organization's mission to revitalize downtown neighborhoods.
Wells will continue operating her business and work part-time as Renaissance director, said Thom Pollock, president of the Renaissance board. Wells will be paid about $12,000 a year, he said.
Wells said she has been a staunch supporter of the Renaissance initiative since its inception, and she's excited about the changes so far in the west downtown neighborhood and is eager to move the organization forward.
"Folks who have invested in Renaissance homes deserve our continued effort to renew the area; residents deserve a safe, clean place to live, and I believe that the city officials and the community as a whole want Renaissance to succeed," she said.
Wells will be the third executive director of Renaissance, an organization led by an all-volunteer board that uses public and private funding to purchase, renovate and market housing and spur private investment in an effort to rehabilitate neighborhoods adjacent to the city's downtown business district.
Renaissance officials have been searching for a new executive director since the organization and former director Bob Yapp parted ways last summer.
Yapp was hired in July 2006 and completed restoration of a Renaissance house at 112 Pine St. and began two more on Payne and Franklin streets. But before those projects were finished, discord emerged among Renaissance board members and Yapp; some board members resigned. The friction climaxed last summer around Yapp's one-year anniversary.
By October, Yapp was no longer executive director, and the Renaissance board began searching for a new director.
Yapp writes a column for The News-Gazette.
Pollock said the search garnered a good pool of local and outside candidates that was narrowed to two finalists. The job was offered to an excellent out-of-town candidate, Pollock said, who turned down the job for a higher-paying job in his hometown.
The second search, he said, resulted in out-of-town candidates who didn't meet qualifications. Later, Wells disclosed her interest in the position, Pollock said, but couldn't do it full-time because of her business.
Pollock said the arrangement will work well, because Renaissance employee Tracy Atwood already serves as project manager and has been continuing renovations at 439 Franklin St. while the board searches for a director. Atwood will report to the board on day-to-day renovation progress, and Wells will focus on financing, fundraising and public relations.
"Both of them are very passionate," Pollock said of Atwood and Wells.
Wells, who has already started as director, said the first order of business will be touring current inventory and developing a plan concerning those properties. Besides 430 Oak St., Renaissance owns other vacant historic houses in the downtown area awaiting renovation.
Wells also said that by the first week of April, new board members need to be recruited and a major planning session conducted with old and new members.
"We also need to develop relationships with organizations and individuals that can spur the growth of the initiative," she said.
Wells wants to develop a plan to fill the vacant lots in the west downtown neighborhood and wants to lure more small businesses downtown by encouraging private developers and investors to build architecturally appropriate buildings in the area.
"It's an exciting time; the possibilities are endless," she said.