Downtown San Jose Association finds new leader in Reno


July 15, 2022

After more than three decades, the San Jose Downtown Association is gaining new leadership.

Alex Stettinski, executive director of Downtown Reno Partnership, is set to become CEO after a six-month nationwide search involving 46 candidates. Stettinski will replace CEO Scott Knies, who has led the sales organization since 1988. Knies will remain in the role until Nov. 4.

With more than 20 years in economic and community development, Stettinski is thrilled to take the helm of the downtown business association on October 4. He previously served as executive director of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and vice president of operations and strategic planning at Visit West Hollywood. In 2017 he joined Downtown Reno Partnership and started building it from the ground up.

Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Stettinski moved to the Bay Area in 1989 to pursue graduate studies in comparative religion and the arts at UC Berkeley. He said he will bring his strengths as a collaborator and consensus builder to his new job.

“It’s bittersweet to leave Reno,” he told San Jose Spotlight. “We’ve made great strides in enabling and creating clean, safe places. My intention is to do something very similar in downtown San Jose. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

An outside look

Alan Marques, Chairman of the Board of the SJDA, values ​​Stettinski’s combination of relevant experience in running downtown associations, as well as his ability to attract business, retain small businesses and support the arts and fundraising. He said that Stettinski had done the SJDA the board appreciates what San Jose has to offer.

“The energy and enthusiasm he has for San Jose has done us good,” he told San Jose Spotlight. “He gave the board the feeling that not only would things be fine, but (he) showed the potential for the future.”

Formed by a group of business owners to protect their interests in transit and development projects, the San Jose Downtown Association has evolved into an influential advocacy organization that plays a key role in shaping the future of downtown.

Under Knies’ leadership, SJDA initiated numerous events to add vibrancy to downtown, including the Music in the Park summer concert series and SoFA Street Fair, among others. The association successfully lobbied for the city center to become a land improvement districtwhich creates a pool of money from local businesses and residents to fund initiatives such as groundwerxwhich employs homeless and low-income residents to clean up trash and graffiti.

The SJDA has also played a key role in downtown development projects, including maximize the height of buildings and the Google Downtown West Project. Knies and the association lobbied for policies to support the recovery of the city center businesses hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marques said Knies’ leadership has created a stable association that is working hard to improve San Jose. He said changes were coming to San Jose with new management and the promise of new developments, which will affect the quality of life downtown for small businesses and the arts.

“We thought it was very important to have an experienced outside perspective that will bring in new ideas,” he said. “Someone who will do whatever it takes to take things to the next level.”

Elizabeth Chien-Hale, SJDA board member and driving force behind the Downtown San Jose Residents Association, said Stettinski will bring innovation to a downtown that needs change. She said he was interested in bringing niche, high-end restaurants downtown like he did in Beverly Hills.

“He’s a good business developer,” she told San Jose Spotlight. “He has that tenacity, that perseverance and that vision.”

Having worked in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles and Reno has helped Stettinski see the issues that need to be addressed in San Jose, he said. He also looks forward to living in San Jose with his “incredibly global mindset.”

“To me, San Jose is this wonderful community that combines generations of history,” he said. “It’s an old city that has so many families that have lived there for many, many generations. Then you have all the people, all this intellectual power that comes from all over the world, to join the tech companies… It’s a wonderful mix of cultures and mindsets that to me are so worldly and so global.Coming from Europe and having lived in so many different places…that’s where I feel at home.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at lorraine@sanjosespotlight.com


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