At Arthur Diamond Associates we spend a lot of time talking to business leaders and industry influencers. This is our monthly Q&A that shares insights from executives at the top of their game. This month, we talk to Leona Agouridis, Executive Director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID).
What attracted you to your current position? I’ve always loved this part of town, ever since I moved to the area in 1984. I’d spend a lot of time in this neighborhood and always wanted to work here, so when the job opportunity of Executive Director for the BID came up it was a chance to not just work in the neighborhood but to take care of it. The variety of the job is really great—we do everything from keeping streets clean to economic development to public art and retail development, and where else can you find a job where the outside neighborhood is your professional palette to work with?
What trends do you see impacting the industry you are in, in the next 2-4 years? I think people are looking more and more to BIDs to take care of more and more. When I started, BIDs were generally focused on just picking up trash, reporting on crime, and being the eyes and ears of the area, and that worked really well. But now both the stakeholders and the government have naturally evolved to turn to business improvement districts to take on more roles in their support of neighborhoods.
Who has been your mentor? I’ve had two, and both have been my bosses. One was Emmett Fremaux, the Director of the DC Board of Elections. He was brought in to the office in 1984 after an election debacle and really cleaned up the agency and had a model system that he set up. My other mentor was my boss Dick White, the General Manager of WMATA.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve received? It came from Dick White and was “think no small thoughts.”
What was your first job? I grew up working in my dad’s fast food restaurant. My first real job was as an English teacher for the DC Department of Finance and Revenue—now OTR. I created a writing assessment and then developed and implemented a training program for their 500 employees.
What accomplishments are you most proud of at the Golden Triangle BID? I’m very proud of the whole Connecticut Avenue project and the median as a major focal point of it. It’s also been a great accomplishment to really build a good organization with a good staff that has the procedures and infrastructure to run smoothly on its own.
What would people be surprised to know about you? I think they’d be surprised to know I have five cats. Or that I have been teaching group exercise classes since 1986 and really love it.
What’s next for the Golden Triangle BID? Now that the Connecticut Avenue streetscape is almost done we’ll start looking at some of the other big streets that would benefit from a similar project. We’re working to secure a grant to build more rain gardens from K Street to Dupont Circle on 19th Street. Another big goal is to do a visioning for Pennsylvania Avenue on our side of the White House to create a more seamless experience for people who visit and work in the neighborhood. And of course, filling up Farragut Square Park with more and more fantastic events.