Downtown Jefferson City holds a special place in Jefferson City native Stephanie Bell’s heart.
“My mom owned a business and a building on High Street, and I spent most afternoons there after school and summers either helping out or getting in the way,”says Bell, the current president of Jefferson City’s Downtown Association. “Downtown was my second home while growing up.”
Bell’s respect for the downtown Jefferson City area blossomed in 2009, shortly after she started working in Jefferson City, when her boss encouraged her to become involved in the community and the Downtown Association.
As both a family and career woman, she works diligently to not only preserve the camaraderie and pride she remembers from the past but also to solidify the area’s future for her family, her husband, Chris, and children, Drew and Amelia, as well as every person who visits, works or lives in the downtown area.
As her volunteerism grew with the Downtown Association, Bell served as secretary, then vice president before becoming president. Her term will run through June 30, 2016.
As president, Bell oversees the implementation and development of Downtown Association events and develops partnerships and coordinates with various downtown stakeholders: businesses, local organizations, city officials and staff, property owners, residents, volunteers and the media.
More recent successes for the association include the creation of an Economic Enhancement Committee to increase sales for retailers and restaurants, an increase in major events and collaborating with the City of Jefferson and the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau to get Jefferson City named America’s Most Beautiful Small Town by Rand McNally.
“Both the video and essay largely highlighted the downtown area, and this brought national attention to our very beautiful city and downtown,” Bell says of the collaboration.
Last year brought the addition of three Arts Strolls to the area and additional Thursday Night Live events in the fall, plus the Lincoln University farmers market on Madison Street every Saturday morning in May.
“These events have led to our community being selected for other larger events, including the Color Vibe run and the upcoming Shelbyfest,” Bell says.
Next for the Downtown Association are two projects funded through grants. One, awarded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is part of the Local Foods Local Places program, which helps create economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, expands access to healthy foods and helps revitalize downtown and existing neighborhoods. For the other, awarded though MoDOT, the Downtown Association will be intimately involved with the City of Jefferson’s Wayfinding project.
“We know that this project will raise community and visitor awareness of our area and its attractions, direct visitors from not only the major U.S. highways but also from Amtrak and the Katy Trail to our community, and it will make our community more welcoming and easier to navigate,” Bell says.
Bell’s position as a lawyer with Blitz, Bardgett and Deutsch certainly provides her with skills that help with her volunteer work. “Writing is a large part of my work as a lawyer, and with the association I am writing to our members, elected officials and the media frequently,” Bell says.
Being president of the Downtown Association is a more public position than Bell had anticipated; she gives interviews and makes appearances and public presentations frequently.
“I’d like to think the work I do with the association is also making me a better lawyer,” she says.