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Hillcrest Business Association welcomes new executive director and board members

(Editor's note: This article was originally published on SDGLN media partner San Diego Uptown News).

SAN DIEGO -- Benjamin Nicholls, outgoing executive director of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), chose the organization’s annual meeting and elections on Tuesday, Oct. 8 as his final act. The event was held at Heat Bar & Kitchen, located at 3797 Park Blvd. in Hillcrest.

Nicholls, the HBA staff and newly hired Executive Director Sonya Stauffer, as well as current board members, other active community business owners, and those interested in joining the HBA board, all assembled for a small program that included attending dignitaries, food, drinks and a celebratory cake from Babycakes.

All HBA members in good standing who have paid their BID assessment as of Sept. 1 were allowed to vote and provided ballots upon check-in. Those unable to attend the annual meeting were encouraged to vote by proxy.

Heat Bar & Kitchen owner Sam Khorish hosted the event on his side patio, providing a buffet-style mixture of charcuterie, gourmet cheeses and fruit. In addition, a selection of Robert Mondavi wines were poured and various plates of specialty food items were also passed through the crowd. Khorish was later elected to the board.

After a short mixer and voting period that would determine the new business representatives for the Hillcrest neighborhood, Nicholls greeted the crowd. He thanked the host, introduced Stauffer and then announced the dignitaries in attendance – which included Interim Mayor Todd Gloria and State Sen. Marty Block – and also made it clear why the meeting was taking place on that particular stretch of Park Boulevard.

“Sam [Khorish] and his business people have prompted a revival here of the Egyptian Quarter,” Nicholls said. “You may know that this part of town has a lot of historic buildings that celebrate the Egyptian revival movement – pretty exciting stuff – and they are going to have movie nights … banners … and do some lighting improvements. You’re going to really feel that this is the Egyptian Quarter once again.”

Stauffer, who took over as executive director on Wednesday, Oct. 9, the day after the annual meeting, was selected for the job after what Nicholls identified as “a pretty exhaustive search” that began once he tendered his resignation to the board on Aug. 13.

Putting on his District Three cap, Gloria stepped up to address the crowd, and said he wanted to personally thank Nicholls and outgoing president Glenn Younger “for their service. … Both have done such amazing work here in Hillcrest.

“It is a great community as a baseline, so it’s hard to go even beyond the fabulous level that you started with, but you have,” he said, referring to the outgoing leaders.

“It’s hard to keep that momentum, because [Hillcrest has] always been a leader in our City, but it continues to do that. … So guys, thank you for your leadership. And Sonya I am looking forward to working with you. No pressure,” Gloria said to animated applause.

The interim mayor then introduced Sen. Block, who represents District 39, of which Hillcrest is part.

“We are incredibly fortunate in San Diego to have Todd Gloria,” Block said. “After what City Hall … and the City has been through, to have someone so positive, so upbeat, so energetic and so bright in the mayor’s office is the best thing that’s happened to San Diego, so thank you Todd.”

Block explained that though representing Hillcrest was new to him, his local staff of five were making sure the issues were being covered, and noted they are currently working to free up the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot for after-hours use.

“I’m following in the very difficult footsteps of Christine Kehoe, and her predecessor was Dede Alpert, her predecessor was Lucy Killea: really incredible, strong progressive women,” he said. “I’m trying to do what I can to get around.”

Block then presented Nicholls with a resolution from the State Senate of California, honoring his contributions to both San Diego and the state.

“I really appreciate this,” Nicholls said. “I am not a local, so to get something like this from the great state of California really means a lot to me.”

The HBA board consists of 14 positions, each with two-year terms. Every year half of the board positions are up for reelection. This year a total of eight vacancies were put to a vote, seven two-year positions expiring October 2015 and one partial, due to expire October 2014.

A minimum number of 40 votes are required for the election, a number that is based upon a percentage of the entire HBA membership. Between the votes cast on site at the meeting and those filed by proxy, that requirement was met and the new board was announced.

Of the eight individuals nominated, all eight were elected and that included five new members: Morgan Freeman of Edith Ernestine; Ryan Bedrosian of Rich’s San Diego; Michael Rosensteel of San Diego Community News Network; and Khorish. In addition, Alphonso Tsang was elected to replace Alonzo Ortiz, both from Comerica Bank.

Members who were reelected to another term were: Jillian DiCola of Hollywood Tans, Michael Brennan of Urban Green and Delour Younan of Hillcrest Shell.

The 2013 board then had their last executive session, voting on the executive branch of the nonprofit’s governing body. New officers included Johnathan Hale of Hale Media, president; Delour as vice president; Cecelia Moreno of Crest Cafe, treasurer; and Eddie Reynoso of MO’s Universe, secretary. All officers are previous board members.

Also voted on by the general membership at the annual meeting were HBA representatives to the Uptown Community Parking District. Moreno was re-elected to another three-year term, Megan Gamwell was elected to take over the seat previously held by Nicholls, and Ryan Devereaux of Snooze, an A.M. Eatery was also elected to a three-year term.

The HBA board meets the second Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is Nov. 12 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center, 3900 Vermont St. For more information, visit hillcrestbia.org or call 619-299-3330.

Morgan M. Hurley is Contributing Editor of SDGLN, Editor of San Diego Downtown News and Assistant Editor of Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News.