WHDA director, board part ways

Published 6:50 pm Monday, January 25, 2016

The Washington Harbor District Alliance parted ways with its director, Beth Byrd, last week.

Byrd stepped down as director because the organization is evaluating its current position and deciding where it wants to go moving forward, according to WHDA Board member Chris Furlough.

The board plans to split the former full-time director position into two part-time positions — a director position and an administrative/events coordinator, Furlough said. During the transitional period, the board plans to use its members and volunteers to ensure the organization’s continued operation.

“(The board) would like to thank Beth for all of her efforts with WHDA and the community, and we appreciate the skills that she brought to the table,” Furlough said.

Byrd said, however, the board unanimously voted on her termination but gave no reason as to why.

“My dismissal from WHDA was a total surprise to me,” Byrd said. “But I’m still committed to the community.”

Moving forward with a more grassroots approach, the board plans to establish better relationships with other downtown organizations such as the Washington/Beaufort Chamber of Commerce, Washington Tourism and Development Authority and Arts on the Pamlico, Furlough said. The plan is to use its volunteer base and teams of board members to bring in expertise and energy to accomplish its various goals, including economic development. Renovation of buildings, identification of potential businesses that may be a good fit for the district and assisting businesses in not only startup but potential grant opportunities are part of the effort to increase economic development, Furlough said.

“WHDA is getting back to a grassroots approach of the Main Street program, which includes better relationships with the downtown merchants and property owners, relationships with its sponsors, relationships with the City of Washington, its staff and council and a relationship with (WHDA’s) volunteers. The grassroots involvement of our merchants and professionals (in the district) is of the utmost importance to us,” Furlough said.

Another priority of the board is to assist WTDA in enhancing its tourism opportunities, according to Furlough. It will also continue hosting events such as the annual Fourth of July and Memorial Day projects and other events that have been characteristic of the organization and community, events that have been a driving force in the area’s economy.

“We recognize that tourism is an industry and that it can be just as important as other industries in our community. WHDA’s goal is to make this harbor district the very best central business district on the water that it can possibly be,” Furlough said.

Over the past several years, the WHDA has been instrumental in assisting the city in developing the harbor district’s reinvestment strategy in 2009, a project that Byrd helped head. The project included implementing new features to the district such as Festival Park, the maritime center, which includes dock master’s facilities and public restrooms, as well as the most recent addition, the People’s Pier, Furlough said.

Ongoing projects the organization is playing a role in developing include the city’s Wayfinding program, a directional signage project and the Underground Railroad Museum project, located at the caboose at the corner of Main and Gladden streets.