After a long and successful 13 years, Chris Johnson has announced that he will be resigning as Executive Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation. Johnson was offered and has accepted the position of Economic Developer for Johnston County.
"It is with bittersweet emotions that I must announce that I have submitted my resignation dated at the end of the day on September 20, 2013," states Johnson. "I have dearly loved every moment as your Downtown Director and allowing me to be your public servant. The last 13 years have been such a joy, such a blessing, and such an honor. There is nothing else in the world I would have rather done than to be your public servant in Smithfield. I greatly look forward to taking the same passion I hope was seen on the streets of Smithfield and applying them to Johnston County and the other municipalities I will serve."
The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation was first formed in 1984 and has had four other directors, with Johnson serving the longest tenure.
Downtown Smithfield became a North Carolina state-certified Main Street Program in 1986. Over the past 27 years, Downtown Smithfield has been seen as a leader across the state with innovative business development incentives, assisting entrepreneurs with new construction and redevelopment projects, streetscape projects and improvements, and hosting community festivals and events.
During Johnson's time as Executive Director, accomplishments include: adoption of a Smithfield Master Plan, burying of the overhead utility lines, completion of the Market Street Streetscape Project, construction of the Neuse Riverwalk and Buffalo Creek Greenway, renovation of the Historic Hastings House, securing a permanent home for the Ava Gardner Museum, implementation of the Historic Brooklyn and North Smithfield neighborhoods, implementation of the SHARP Grant program, expansion of the Ham & Yam Festival, and countless other promotional events.
"In these 13 years, I really truly believe we not only met the goals set out by our board but exceeded them," continued Johnson. "When you reach goals like that, you start looking for new things to do, or move on to something else that's going to challenge you. We have such great communities and a wonderful county. I will wake up every morning with the drive to make sure the rest of the world knows about it."
During the transition time, administrative assistant Sarah Edwards will assume the role of Interim Director until the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation Board of Directors determines when and how the position will be filled.
"We are obviously saddened that Chris will no long be our Director, but we are more than confident in Sarah's abilities and leadership," states Barry Long, DSDC Board Chairman. "She has had opportunities in the past to take leadership positions in other communities in the state. We are very lucky she has remained with us."
Edwards has a Bachelor's degree in Public Policy Analysis from UNC Chapel Hill and has completed course work toward a Master's degree in Public Administration at UNC Wilmington. She has worked with the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation since July 2009.