The sudden departure of the director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. isn’t a sign that the business organization is unhappy with efforts to promote more arts and entertainment events downtown.
Instead, Tuesday afternoon’s announcement that Jane Pennington no longer is affiliated with Downtown Lawrence Inc. was the result of a more traditional personnel matter, Mary Cox, president of the DLI board, said Thursday.
Cox said she wasn’t comfortable providing details about the matter that led to the departure.
Pennington on Thursday characterized the issue as one where she and some members of the organization were no longer in agreement on some management issues.
“It is a fairly typical personnel issue where expectations have not been clearly defined, in my opinion,” Pennington said.
Both Cox and Pennington said speculation that the DLI board was unhappy with a recent emphasis Pennington had placed on promoting the arts and a new Final Fridays art event was incorrect.
“Final Fridays will continue,” said Cox, who is an owner of Shark’s Surf Shop, 813 Mass. “There will be a Final Fridays at the end of this month. I think most retailers believe it has been a good thing.”
The event — held on the final Friday of each month — has been going on since August. Pennington was a leader in establishing the event, which features special gallery space and art performances downtown. Downtown Lawrence Inc. has been a sponsor of the event, in hopes that increased activity downtown would lead to more retail sales.
Some merchants have questioned the strategy, but Cox said DLI’s board is committed to the idea.
Pennington said specific disagreements about the event or other issues related to the overall vision for downtown were not at the heart of the disagreements she had with the organization.
“I don’t think it is an issue of the vision, but there is no unified vision, so maybe that is part of the issue,” said Pennington, the group’s director for the past three years.
Cox said the DLI board will begin advertising for a new director — which is a full-time position — later this month. The board hopes to have a new director hired as soon as possible, she said.
“We’ll be looking for someone with a lot of energy, someone who is on the streets a lot and making contact with retailers on a regular basis,” Cox said. “This position really is kind of the personality of downtown.”