RACINE — The Downtown Racine Corp. has announced Kelly Kruse as its new executive director starting September 5.

Kruse has been a board member of the Downtown Racine Corp. for two years and an employee of The Journal Times for 13. She will be leaving her position as advertising account executive at The Journal Times to become DRC executive director.

“I love small business,” Kruse said. “My parents were both entrepreneurs and small business owners so I’ve always been drawn to that.”

Jim Venturini, chairman of the DRC Board of Directors, said the organization is excited to have Kruse as the new executive director.

“She brings tremendous enthusiasm, experience and vision to this role,” Venturini said. “We currently have phenomenal momentum in downtown Racine and we are confident that she will be a great partner to our board, the merchants and businesses of downtown.”

Kruse will be succeeding Devin Sutherland, who has been the executive director for 14 years.

“The trajectory of Downtown has never been better,” Kruse said of Sutherland’s time in the position. “We have more new business now than we have since he started … I have big shoes to fill, definitely.”

Kruse said she will be focused on fulfilling the mission of the Downtown Racine Corp. of keeping a vibrant Downtown that generates business growth and attracts visitors.

“That’s got to be the core of everything I do,” Kruse said. “I’ve always had a vested interest in Downtown (Racine).”

The first major event for the organization with Kruse in charge is Party on the Pavement, set for Sept. 23 on Main and Sixth streets.

“I’ll be focused on making sure that goes smoothly,” Kruse said.

The major areas Kruse plans to look at are fundraising, grants, membership growth and event planning.

“Each of those are going to be handled slightly different than they were, purely based on the experience I’ve had and that I’m bringing to the table,” Kruse said.

Kruse said she plans to continue the work being done to bring a positive image of Racine.

“Downtown Racine is the heart of our community and is a tourist attraction to so many visitors each year,” Kruse said. “We have more new stores, businesses and restaurants opening in downtown than ever before. Our positive trajectory has never been stronger. I look forward to leveraging my fundraising, marketing and event planning skills in this new role.”

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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