by Nathan Boddy
It’s only been a few weeks since Robin Pruitt took over as Executive Director of the Hamilton Downtown Association (HDA), but a busy holiday season is underway, and the HDA will not miss being a part of it. Pruitt, who accepted the position following the resignation of Erin Steuer in late October, is in the midst of strengthening connections, navigating the holiday season and making plans for the next calendar year.
“The work that has been done by committed volunteers and staff over the last 11 years has really given us the footing to take it to the next level,” says Pruitt, adding that one of her goals will be to continue positioning the HDA as an entity which can be both a resource and an asset to members of the organization. Indeed, she says that there is a lot of capacity building that can be coordinated through the HDA, including grants for training and marketing all the way to facility improvement. Luckily, Pruitt says that, “There is more interest and excitement from the businesses than I’d anticipated, and no shortage of people who are willing to get involved.”
The HDA was established in 2011 and was originally a subcommittee of the Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce before becoming a registered 501c6 non-profit. According to their website, the HDA now, “works collectively with the local community to re-invest in and maintain the vitality of the Hamilton business and non-profit community to contribute to the vitality and well-being of our community.” However, the HDA’s ongoing relationship with the Bitterroot Chamber of Commerce is something that Pruitt looks forward to nurturing for the benefit of both entities. “I have a great relationship with Jodi and Al
at the Chamber, and (working with them) is an exciting opportunity for me personally.”
Pruitt, who also represents Ward 1 on the Hamilton City Council, says that her exposure to City issues will hopefully serve as a benefit to her role as Executive Director of the HDA. Knowledge of the city’s Growth Policy, opportunities and constraints, and planning and zoning issues are all topics of consideration that an HDA Director would need to be aware of, and as a City Councilor, she is very up-to-date. “At some point, I would have to recuse myself from certain decisions,” says Pruitt, but adds that the two should essentially be complimentary roles.
Ultimately, it is easy to see Pruitt’s dedication to Hamilton. Despite the changing hats between City Councilor, mother of two young boys and now, HDA Executive Director, her enthusiasm for her town shows through. Embedded within that energy is a sober understanding of the fact that Hamilton, Montana is a rapidly changing place. “I feel like we all know that the growth in this community is coming,” says Pruitt. “I know it can be scary, but this is the time to deal with it and shape it the way we want.” The future that Pruitt sees for the future of Hamilton certainly includes some of what makes it unique right now.
“Our downtown is one of the great assets of our community,” she says. Pruitt mentions the beauty of a hometown feel that she receives in knowing that her two boys are safe and well looked after, even if she sends them downtown with a couple dollars in their pockets. “I can send them down to Big Creek Coffee, Chapter One Books or Mainstreet Toys, and know that people are going to call me if there’s a problem. It’s an amenity that people elsewhere don’t really have anymore, and it’s a treasure that we do have here.”
In support of that treasure, the HDA would like to announce the Christmas Stroll this Friday, November 26th for caroling and warming by the burn barrels along Main Street beginning at 4:30. Events will include lighting the Christmas tree downtown at 6 p.m. The Bitterroot Backcountry Horsemen have also agreed to stand in for Santa’s reindeer for the evening, allowing St. Nick to make an appearance. Small Business Saturday (the 27th) will include free horse-drawn carriage rides (between noon and 3:00) and more appearances by Santa at Mainstreet Toys and later at Red’s Studio Salon & Boutique.