Fresh downtown Snohomish director comes with experience
SNOHOMISH — Jim Bennett, the new head of the Historic Downtown Snohomish Association (HDSA), had to hit the ground running, literally.
After starting in November, the executive director found himself suited up on Dec. 2 as the Grinch, for the annual run to chase the character out of town.
Next up, he’s hoping to launch the association into the Main Street America program. The national coalition is dedicated to keeping historic commercial districts vibrant and thriving.
The annual Chase the Grinch Out of Snohomish Fun Run is one of several city-enhancing events Bennett will manage in 2019 together with the agency’s nine-member board of directors.
The HDSA is also known for its wine, chocolate and zombie walks, holiday events and music festivals such as the Taste of Music festival.
Bennett has a lengthy marketing resume that clicked with the agency as it looked to hire its first executive director.
After an early stint with the Seattle SuperSonics, Bennett moved into soccer marketing before branching out from sports.
He took on new challenges during a tunnel project with King County Metro before heading above ground to manage Wild Waves Theme Park.
Prior to landing at HDSA, Bennett recently spent 13 years directing marketing for the Woodland Park Zoo.
Bennett’s handled agencies through bankruptcies, seen “war zone” conditions like the Downtown Seattle bus tunnel project and managed a staff of 450 at the zoo.
For him, the appeal of the smaller-scale operation in Snohomish was precisely in its size. With a little smaller agency, the hope is “maybe you can get things done,” he said.
One goal is to optimize events in Snohomish. He’s looking to attract more millennials and help tackle the perennial parking crunch. Millennials “like experiences, it’s not always about material stuff,” Bennett said. He shared the Snohomish Wine Walk as a perfect example of downtown’s appeal.
To improve events, Bennett will also look outward. Already on the schedule is a “Main Street Now” conference in March in Seattle.
“What I learned in sports is we only compete on the court or field,” Bennett said. “We considered it the highest compliment when someone ripped off our promotions.”
It’s not Bennett’s first time in Snohomish: he recalled assisting with a historic district marketing effort in town about 20 years ago. Before that, he remembers the idea being floated to turn “the antique capital of the Northwest” into a mall.
“You can’t regenerate this,” Bennett said, glad that what makes Snohomish distinct wasn’t allowed to be razed in the ‘60s for a proposed mid-century riverside mall.
His mission now is to further highlight and develop the brand that showcases downtown’s one-of-a-kind character.
He’s coordinating a core of nine diverse board member volunteers including residents, business owners and a landlord.
While Bennett’s been on a reverse commute from Seattle to work, he’s looking forward to recreation in town. The Bennetts last month were in negotiations to purchase a weekend home in Snohomish and hoped to close soon.
In his off time, you may find the fleet-footed exec racing; from a 5k to a triathlon, he loves to run — even if it is in a bulky Santa suit and neon green mask.
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