February 13, 2019IMLAY CITY — She's been a familiar face around town for more than a half-dozen years. An advocate for the city, champion of all things local, and literally a Friend of Youth.
That won't change, says Dana Walker, who on Monday tendered her resignation from her post as Director of Imlay City's Downtown Development Authority. She's held the position since October of 2014; her last day on the job is February 28.
Walker is stepping down to take on
the job as Director
of the Michigan Downtown Association.
It's a good fit for Walker, who's served as Imlay's DDA director for the past four-and-a-half years. The MDA is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of downtowns across the Great Lakes State, and Walker's been a member of that Board of Directors for the past two years.
"I'm excited for this new opportunity," Walker says. "Downtowns are my passion, so when the previous director retired last year, I decided to go through the application process and lo and behold, they offered me the job."
Though she's thrilled to take on the challenge, Walker says she has mixed emotions about leaving Imlay City. Prior to her stint as DDA Director, she served as the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director from 2010 to 2014, when she moved to the DDA position.
"It's strange," Walker says. "I'm really excited about the new opportunity and I know that I can continue to make positive strides for our downtowns, but it is a little strange knowing that I won't be entering the city limits every day.
"It's been a wonderful ride and I've made incredible relationships that I know will continue," she says. "The community is a very supportive community."
She says she's grateful for the boards of directors she's worked with, both as Chamber and DDA Director.
"I have been blessed with wonderful boards my entire time here," she says. "They are community champions, which has made my job a lot easier."
Walker says she credits the DDA board with "going out on a limb" to support and create the Art in the Rough event, which she says has grown over the past four years.
"I also love that the DDA supports the arts in downtown, with the public artwork initiative," she says.
Walker also appreciates the board's commitment to partnering with the city for infrastructure and other improvement projects.
"I think that will continue, as they are dedicated to teaming up with the city to use all resources which offers a lot more leverage."
Walker hopes to continue to enjoy that support in her new role, which will continue to bring her into the area. Imlay City, Almont and Lapeer are all members of the MDA.
"I will still be visiting Lapeer County doing business," she says. "A big portion of what the MDA does is advocacy. We want to make sure that communities across the state, and our state legislators, understand the importance of downtowns, DDAs, and tax increment financing authorities."
While she'll miss Imlay City, Walker says she's inspired by the opportunity to visit towns throughout the state.
"I am excited to meet different people from across the state, and to help promote what downtowns across the state are doing that make a positive difference," she says.
Imlay City Mayor Joi Kempf says Walker has been a tremendous asset to Imlay City.
"We're very sad to see Dana go, she has been absolutely wonderful for Imlay City," Kempf says.
"The MDA will definitely benefit from Dana's enthusiasm and knowledge of downtowns, and we're excited that Imlay City will still get to work with her occasionally. Imlay City and the DDA wish Dana the absolute very best, and we thank her for everything she's done for us."
Along with her positions with the Chamber and DDA, Walker earned recognition as Imlay City Friend of Youth and Rotarian of the Year, and served as president of the Rotary Club. She is also a board member of the Lapeer County Community Foundation.
The search for a new DDA Director is underway. A job posting is available online at www.icdda.com; and is on the classified page of this issue of Tri-City Times.
Attempts to reach DDA Board Chairman Walt Bargen were unsuccessful by press time.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.