Downtown Austin Alliance Staff
The Downtown Austin Alliance’s small but mighty team works tirelessly every day to shape the city center we love so much. Our dedicated group of professionals has unmatched experience and knowledge of urban issues. And by leading committees and leveraging community partnerships, we grow even greater than the sum of our parts.
Dewitt M. Peart
President and CEO
Dewitt (De) Peart leads the DAA team in fulfilling its mission of preserving and enhancing the value and vitality of downtown Austin.
De became the President and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance in February 2015. He guides the DAA’s vision and strategy, supervises staff and ensures the organization’s fiscal health. He also acts as head liaison to the DAA board of directors and informs public officials and the community of our priorities.
Prior to taking the helm at the DAA, De served as executive vice president, economic development and public affairs at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), and president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce – both affiliates of the Allegheny Conference. The PRA markets the benefits of conducting business in southwestern Pennsylvania to companies worldwide that are growing, relocating or expanding and supports the growth of existing employers in the Pittsburgh region.
For 25 years, Molly Alexander has enjoyed a successful career focused on downtown revitalization and economic development, including enterprises in both the public and private sectors.
As the Downtown Austin Alliance’s Executive Vice President of Economic Development, Molly leads the organization's Economic Development Corporation, as well as oversees the research, mobility, and downtown transportation management programs for the organization. She orchestrates a full range of services that help vitalize the Austin business sector and create a sense of place.
Molly received her bachelor’s degree in urban studies and history from Trinity University. Along with founding her own start-up company, her past positions have included Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Georgetown Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Economic and Community Development Director for the City of Elgin. Molly’s favorite place downtown is her “second office” at Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Avenue.
Melissa Barry works with a number of diverse partners to enhance downtown parks and public spaces so that they provide value and vitality for downtown.
Melissa develops the Downtown Austin Alliance’s strategies and programs focused on placemaking and public space, capturing the vitality of Austin’s creative community to enhance the appeal of downtown. She participates in community planning efforts, advocates for improved policies, and works with partners such as the Austin Parks Foundation, Waller Creek Conservancy, and Art Alliance Austin.
Before joining the DAA in 2009, Melissa was a senior planner at Behan Planning and Design where she worked with local governments throughout the Northeast on community planning and development initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Albany and a master's degree in planning from Arizona State University. She is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Melissa’s favorite downtown attraction is the Farmers’ Market at Republic Square, and she loves starting the morning with a latte from Houndstooth Coffee.
Vice President, Operations
Bill Brice develops and implements strategies for keeping downtown safe and clean so the area can continue to thrive economically.
As the Downtown Austin Alliance’s Vice President of Operations, Bill Brice keeps his eye on downtown’s infrastructure. He acts as liaison to property owners, city management and staff, law enforcement agencies, and downtown stakeholder groups to work on solutions related to public safety and cleanliness. In addition to being a daily trouble-shooter and advocate, Bill oversees the DAA’s ambassador program.
Before joining the DAA team in 2003, Bill served as a YMCA executive director and as director of special events and communications for the Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Slippery Rock University. Bill’s favorite downtown outdoor activity is fishing on Lady Bird Lake and his favorite live music venue is the Elephant Room.
Samia Burns handles all financial reporting for the DAA to ensure full accountability to our stakeholders, and also manages payroll and human resources functions.
Samia Burns handles all accounting functions for the Downtown Austin Alliance and is responsible for accounts payable, accounts receivable, and billings. She also oversees the DAA’s payroll and human resources systems.
Samia joined the DAA in 2001, bringing 12 years of experience working in the nonprofit and long-term health care industries as an accounting manager and a controller. She received her master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Texas. Samia's favorite downtown treasure is the Paramount Theatre for shows during the Holiday season and SXSW.
Program Manager, Movability Austin
Thomas Butler consults with downtown employers to develop mobility plans that help employees avoid driving alone during rush hour traffic.
Besides reducing stress and saving time for employees, mobility plans allow businesses to save money and operate more efficiently. One of his goals is to see the number of commuters who drive alone to work reduced by 20% by the year 2020.
Prior to joining Movability Austin, Thomas managed all of the Downtown Austin Alliance’s transportation and streetscape initiatives He has also worked as a community planner for the National Park Service and as an elementary school teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and studied community and regional planning at The University of Texas at Austin. Thomas’s favorite way to commute downtown is by bike and bus.
Thomas's favorite downtown coffee shop is the Hideout on Congress Avenue and his favorite hamburger is from Casino El Camino, on East 6th Street.
Vice President, External Affairs
Julie Fitch ensures the Downtown Austin Alliance is part of every policy discussion and legislative change that affects downtown.
Julie Fitch is the liaison for all policy and advocacy efforts of the Downtown Austin Alliance, monitoring policy recommendations, proposed code changes, and state legislation that affect downtown Austin and advocating for positions that reflect the priorities of Downtown Alliance members. In addition to public policy, Julie oversees communications, public relations, marketing, and education programs.
Before joining the DAA team in 1999, Julie worked for the Texas House of Representatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in government from The University of Texas at Austin. Julie’s favorite downtown foods are buffalo fried pickles from 2nd Bar + Kitchen or tomato brie soup from Annie's Cafe & Bar.
Stories are all around us and the story of downtown past, present and future is an exciting one. Here to share the stories of downtown and the work of the Downtown Austin Alliance is Dana Hansen, our Communications & Events Manager.
In her role, Dana manages all of our online communication channels. She also coordinates community events such as the annual Holiday Sing-along and Downtown Stroll. She is currently working on developing the programming and marketing plans for Republic Square which will reopen in 2017 after a major renovation.
Prior to joining the Downtown Alliance team in April 2016, she worked for nearly 10 years in nonprofit fundraising and communications in support of causes from youth homelessness to animal welfare. Dana has her Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s in photojournalism from Boston University.
Dana enjoys exploring downtown and discovering hidden gems. Look her for in line at the Caffe Medici counter-cafe on Congress Ave.
John T. Kennedy
Vice President, Mobility
John T. Kennedy leads and manages transportation strategies, programs and initiatives to advance multimodal mobility solutions for downtown Austin and the greater region.
Director of Research & Analysis
Jenell Moffett leads economic, demographic, geographic, and market research and analysis efforts to support Downtown Austin’s strategic priorities.
Jenell began with the Downtown Austin Alliance in March of 2016. She manages the implementation and maintenance of systems for data management and integration. She also directs multiple research projects in order to support economic development, planning, and advocacy efforts.
Prior to her work with the Downtown Alliance, Jenell worked for the City of Austin for over 10 years. During her time there, she worked as an Engineering Associate with Austin Water Utility and a Senior Business Systems Analyst with the Office of Sustainability. Jenell has her Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Business Administration from Concordia University Texas-Austin.
Jenell’s favorite downtown attraction is the State Capitol.
Program Manager, Movability Austin
Alix Scarborough consults with downtown employers to turn mobility challenges into tools to meet their business goals, and she helps commuters find and use options that are cheaper, less stressful, and better for Austin’s traffic and air quality.
Alix works with companies and agencies to develop and implement mobility plans that align with their business interests. Her most rewarding moments are when she can help commuters find and use mobility options that meet their needs, integrating behavior change techniques to turn a "try it" experience into a lifestyle.
Before joining Movability Austin in 2014, Alix was a planner at Black + Vernooy Architects. Her work on the Reconnect Austin advocacy project challenged her daily to find the balance between citizen opinion and technical planning expertise. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Texas State University. Alix’s favorite part of her commute downtown is hopping off the bus one stop early, just so she can stroll through the Capitol grounds.
Alix’s favorite downtown lunch indulgence is Chef Jon’s yellow curry from Slake Café, and her favorite happy hour spot is the Driskill Bar.
Mandi is responsible for planning, organizing and directing all of the Downtown Alliance’s partnerships and fundraising endeavors.
She works directly with the Economic Development team to implement a strategic approach to partnerships which include conceptualizing and executing sponsorship opportunities that leverage organizational assets.
Her favorite thing about downtown is the important history of each street, park and building. Outside of work, she enjoys live music and being outdoors with her family.
Michele Van Hyfte
Vice President, Economic Development
Michele L. Van Hyfte leads economic development initiatives that advance smart, sustainable real estate development and infrastructure at the building and district scales.
Alice Vargas works to keep the Downtown Alliance membership organized, connected, and informed.
As the primary point of contact in the office, Alice keeps Downtown Austin Alliance members connected and informed by keeping her finger on the pulse of imporant information and providing a helpful hand to get every question answered.
Alice joined the DAA in 1998. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from St. Edward's University. As an alumnus of the university’s College Assistant Migrant Program Scholarship Program, Alice enjoys sharing her experience with potential and incoming students. Alice’s favorite downtown breakfast spot is The Hideout.