Downtown Alliance Staff & Board
Our team is made up of excited, experienced professionals who are committed to shaping the future of downtown
President and CEORead Bio⟶
President and CEO
Dewitt (De) Peart leads the Downtown Alliance team in fulfilling its mission to create, preserve, and enhance the value and vitality of downtown Austin.
De became the President and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance in February 2015. He guides the vision and strategy, supervises staff and ensures the organization’s fiscal health. He also acts as the head liaison to the board of directors and informs public officials and the community of our priorities.
Prior to taking the helm at the Downtown Alliance, 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.
Executive Director, Downtown Austin Alliance FoundationRead Bio⟶
Executive Director, Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation
Molly leads the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, a new 501(c)(3) organization of the Downtown Austin Alliance.
For 30 years, Molly has enjoyed a successful career focused on downtown revitalization and economic development. As the Executive Director of the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation, Molly and her team work to develop programs, projects, and resources that preserve and enhance what is unique and authentic about downtown Austin.
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.
Melissa Barry, AICP
Vice President, PlanningRead Bio⟶
Melissa Barry, AICP
Vice President, Planning
Melissa leads the urban planning division, providing visionary leadership to support a vibrant and livable future for downtown Austin.
Recently, Melissa led the team to create the Downtown Austin Parking Strategy, as well as the Downtown Austin Vision, a plan for the next 25 years of downtown. She serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Place and Planning Committee.
Before joining the team 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. Melissa moved to Austin in 2009.
Vice President, Investor RelationsRead Bio⟶
Vice President, Investor Relations
Bill works to enhance relationships with all member property owners and key stakeholders, to strategically expand the Public Improvement District, and to develop and implement strategies to broadly address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Before joining the Downtown Alliance 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.
Casey Johnson Burack
General Counsel & Vice President, Government RelationsRead Bio⟶
Casey Johnson Burack
General Counsel & Vice President, Government Relations
Casey works on urban mobility issues and projects for the Downtown Alliance. She also serves as in-house counsel on a variety of matters, and advocates on behalf of the Downtown Alliance at the state and federal levels of government.
Casey serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Urban Mobility Committee. She also currently serves on the Board of Bike Share Austin, as co-chair of ULI Austin's Transportation Strategic Council, and as a member ULI Austin’s Advisory Board.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Casey was an attorney in Winstead PC's Real Estate Development & Investments Practice Group. She is a member of the Texas, California and New York Bar Associations.
Samia handles all financial reporting and accounting functions for the Downtown Alliance, Movability, and the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation to ensure full accountability to our stakeholders.
Samia joined the team in 2001, bringing experience working in the nonprofit and long-term healthcare industries as an accounting manager and a controller.
Chief Operating OfficerRead Bio⟶
Chief Operating Officer
Julie leads internal and external efforts to ensure the strategic success of the Downtown Austin Alliance and to influence how the organization is viewed in the community.
Julie works alongside community leaders, elected officials, staff and board members. She advises program and project teams to support strategic initiatives, governance, brand strategy, public policy, research, advocacy and communication efforts.
Before joining the Downtown Alliance team in 1999, Julie worked for the Texas House of Representatives. Julie has lived in Austin since 1993.
Vice President, Marketing and CommunicationRead Bio⟶
Vice President, Marketing and Communication
Pamela (Pam) Power leads the organization's overall communication to increase the visibility of our mission, vision and goals with a commitment to drive positive change in downtown Austin.
Driven to help create, preserve, and enhance the value and vitality of downtown, Pamela oversees research and policy-based messaging, marketing, and leads the creative team in brand development for the Downtown Alliance family of brands, including the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation and Republic Square.
Pamela’s 30 years of experience in marketing and media expanded in broadcast television, radio, cable, and printed news. She has been recognized for her professional contributions with numerous awards, including “Trailblazer of the Year” presented by the Alliance for Women in Media. Pamela’s volunteer efforts have centered around mobility, art, parks, and placemaking with urban-centric organizations including Austin B-Cycle, Urban Land Institute, Downtown Austin Alliance, Movability Austin, and Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association.
Michele Van Hyfte, AIA, LEED AP
Vice President, Urban DesignRead Bio⟶
Michele Van Hyfte, AIA, LEED AP
Vice President, Urban Design
Michele leads urban design and planning initiatives that strive to advance downtown as the thriving center of the region and serves as staff lead for the Economic Development Committee.
She provides strategic leadership and professional expertise to the organization in architecture, urban design, real estate development and sustainability. Michele leads advocacy strategies for downtown development policies, including the land development code and related regulations.
Michele is a Registered Architect and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional. Prior to joining the Downtown Alliance, she developed and led Seton Healthcare Family’s sustainability program and founded and owned a downtown architectural design and consulting firm.
Planning & Urban Design Coordinator
Andre supports the planning, urban design, development, and advocacy efforts that help to create a vibrant and livable downtown Austin. He also helps facilitate the organization’s Urban Mobility Committee.
Prior to joining the Downtown Austin Alliance in January of 2019, Andre served as the graduate research assistant for the Convention Center Report, commissioned by the City of Austin and produced by the Center for Sustainable Design at the University of Texas. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Trinity University and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Andre moved to Austin in 2015
Jennifer brings the Downtown Alliance’s initiatives and projects to the forefront by supporting communication efforts through digital platforms.
Jennifer coordinates digital communication, including developing, editing and scheduling content for social media and email marketing for the Downtown Austin Alliance and Republic Square. She has a bachelor’s degree in communication from St. Edward’s University with a background in social media management and graphic design.
Dana tells the story of downtown and the work of the Downtown Alliance through our online communication platforms.
Dana manages the communication efforts of the Downtown Alliance and Republic Square. 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. She has a master's in journalism from Boston University.
Irene supports the daily business and office operations of the Downtown Austin Alliance, and assists with meeting/project coordination.
Prior to joining the Downtown Austin Alliance, Irene was a Montessori early childhood educator for seven years. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English - with a Creative Writing focus - from The Ohio State University. Originally from Cleveland OH, Irene moved to Austin in 2013 from Boulder CO.
Alex supports the day-to-day operations for our executive team managing meetings, calendars, and correspondence.
Alex joined the Army National Guard after high school. She worked in Intelligence for 3 years before finishing her commitment and attending college at Arizona State University, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Technical Communications. She moved to Austin in 2014.
Gabriel supports the Downtown Alliance’s economic development, planning, and advocacy efforts by managing systems and reporting on data from affordable parking to retail vacancy.
Gabriel has a background in research and citizen engagement from his previous position with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., where he was the Development Assistant. He has his masters in public administration with a focus in economic development.
Jenell Moffett, MBA
Director of Research & Analysis
Jenell leads economic, demographic, geographic, and market research and analysis efforts to support the Downtown Alliance's strategic priorities.
She sets the annual research agenda and directs multiple research projects that support economic development, planning, and advocacy efforts. She serves as the staff lead for the Research Task Force and is the secondary staff lead for the Strategic Communication Committee. Prior to her work with the Downtown Alliance, Jenell worked for the City of Austin for more than 10 years.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Mandi establishes and nurtures strong relationships with strategic partners to support the purpose, vision and annual financial goals of the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Downtown Alliance Foundation.
She also oversees the programming of Republic Square, our annual Holiday Stroll, and other activations projects throughout downtown. Before joining the Downtown Alliance in 2016, Mandi spent 16 years working in the events and entertainment industry across various marketing and sponsorship sales roles. She spent 13 years with AEG Live as the Director of Partnerships for the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie and The Palladium Ballroom. Mandi also spent a year at The Dallas Morning News as their Product Strategist & Client Engagement Manager.
Events & Programming Manager
Rebecca brings the Downtown Austin Alliance vision to life through large-scale signature events, educational presentations and safety forums. She is also the venue manager for Republic Square
Rebecca has experience in event production from her previous role as Marketing Director for KROX-FM, where she led in event series including popular programming held at Republic Square. She has her undergraduate degree in Corporate Communication and a certification in Digital Arts and Music from the University of Texas, Austin.
Director of Operations
Matt manages the delivery of direct services and service contracts to ensure downtown is welcoming for residents, employees, and visitors alike.
Matt manages the Downtown Ambassadors team and is responsible for all operations and maintenance of Republic Square. He serves as the primary staff lead for the organization’s Safety & Hospitality Committee.
Matt brings a diverse background ranging from sustainable design and construction to non-profit programming and events. Matt originally moved to Austin from the northeast to complete his Master in Architecture with a focus in sustainable design.
Strategic Communication Manager
Vanessa leads the implementation of the organization’s communication strategy and is the primary staff lead for the Strategic Communications Committee. She plays a critical role in development of public-facing assets including the website and downtown vision.
Prior to joining the Downtown Austin Alliance in March 2017, Vanessa spent two years with the Seton Healthcare Family as a project manager. Before moving to Austin, Vanessa spent five years in management and political consulting, focusing on organizational development and team building.
Emily Risinger, SITES AP
Planning and Urban Design Manager
Emily guides visionary projects that meet at the intersection of design, civic engagement, and placemaking through the lens of equity and inclusion to make the heart of our community a better place for all. Emily also helps lead the Place & Planning and Urban Mobility Committees of the Downtown Austin Alliance.
Emily is a SITES AP Accredited Professional and a National Charrette Institute Certified facilitator. She brings valuable experience from her time as a consultant, where she led in strategic projects including capital improvement plans, mobility studies, and sustainability certifications, to name a few. She received a master’s in community and regional planning and a bachelor’s in urban studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Vanessa assists in managing financial activities and ensuring contract compliance for the Downtown Austin Alliance.
Vanessa manages operation's contracts and services, including day to day oversight and invoicing, ensuring established standards are met to consistently deliver a clean and safe downtown experience. She has a bachelor’s degree in business from Drexel University with a background in accounting and finance and a master’s degree in finance from Babson College.
Board of Directors
S. Whitney May Knight
Large Property Owners
Bob Barnes, IBC Bank
David Bodenman, Highland Resources
Tim Burris, Silicon Labs
Jerry Frey, Savills
Tim Hendricks, Cousins Properties Inc.
Adam Nims, Trammell Crow Company
Richard Paddock, HPI
Andy Smith, Lincoln Property Company
Fernando Urrutia, Lionstone Investments
*Megan Wanek-Frey, Endeavor Real Estate Group
Medium Property Owners
Bobby Dillard, Cielo Realty Partners
*Ryan Garrett, Stubb's BBQ & Waller Creek Amphitheater
David Kahn, Colina West
Douglas Manchester, Manchester Financial
Chinna Natesan, White Swan Investments
Mac Pike, Sutton Company
Jim Ritts, Austin Theatre Alliance
Tara Shaikh, Tantallon
Small Property Owners
Donna Carter, Carter Design Associates
David DeSilva, East Sixth Street Property Improvement District
Charles Heimsath, Capitol Market Research
Perry Horton, Lead Commercial
Caitlin Ryan, Stream Realty Partners
Leon Shadowen, Brandywine Realty Trust
Joel Sher, Congress Holdings Group
Julie Taylor, Moore & Associates
Mark Terry, TEPSA
*Kevin Brown, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP
Larry Graham, Texas Gas Service
*Jeff Howard, McLean & Howard
Nikelle Meade, Husch Blackwell
Stephen Roberts, Clark Hill | Strasburger
*Steve Scheibal, New West Communications
Sania Shifferd, BOKA Powell, LLC
Aaron Vollmer, RUNA Workshop
DeLaine Ward, Austin Bar Association
Daniel Woodroffe, dwg.
Mayor Steve Adler, City of Austin
Randy Clarke, Capital Metro
Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Travis County
Sandy Guzman, State of Texas
Molly Beth Malcolm, Austin Community College
Amy Shaw Thomas, The University of Texas System
Larry Wallace, Central Health
* Denotes committee chair