THE THOUGHT OF CRISTINA SHEPPARD- DECIUS doing anything other than serving as the Director of the Ferndale DDA is a bit startling to all of us in Ferndale. And yet, as of May 27, 2015, she is now pointed in a new direction on her life-map. For fifteen years, to say that Sheppard Decius served with dedication is to say not nearly enough. It was not her job — it was the center of her universe and the font of her personal pride. Everyone in Ferndale has benefited, and will continue to benefit for many years beyond, from her sacrifice, initiatives and her legacy.
We now present her farewell message.
I have had the privilege and honor to serve my hometown, my community, for 15 years as Executive Director of the Ferndale DDA, bringing to reality the dream and vision of so many residents and businesses of a revitalized downtown that mirrors the passions of this community…smart, progressive, creative, open-minded. Working tirelessly all of these years to make sure we are top of mind in the Metro Area, we have not only successfully attained that goal, but also notably in Oakland County, across the state and nationally as a Great American Main Street Community. We have the respect of the region for leadership in downtown management, and I hope that you will help and continue to be a part of that great tradition.
When I first began, we had a 30% vacancy rate and a downtown that few said that they wanted to be a part of, nor had much faith in at first. I pushed hard for us to adopt the Main Street approach because it is the right organizational tool for a downtown, and although we only had a small contingency at first, I built a base of volunteers and community involvement in the process of revitalizing a downtown that has changed our culture and opened up many other minds to Downtown Ferndale. We even defied economics, by reversing vacancy rates and increasing investments and property value leading up to and during the state’s toughest economic conditions. This was not done by myself alone, nor this organization alone, but we all played a major role in providing a secure economy to weather the storm. We have now ascended from it, and there are many opportunities now in the near future that we need to make sure we nurture and guide to the finish. A collective voice is needed to do this, and I hope the recent vision session the DDA held is a good start in doing this, but don’t stop there!
I am Downtown Ferndale’s biggest fan…biggest advocate….biggest promoter. I always will be. I am proud and stand behind the work I have done, but more importantly those of my fellow co- workers, volunteers, businesses, residents and board along the way, many of whom I now call friends. I am so proud of all of the great things we have accomplished, and literally changing the culture and perception of Downtown Ferndale into this amazing downtown that it is. This community has made my job so rewarding. I will forever be grateful and have wonderful memories of all that we have accomplished together.
It is with bittersweet emotion to say good-bye to Downtown Ferndale and the Ferndale DDA. This has been my life, and I have so enjoyed living it, but it doesn’t stop here for me. I will continue to be passionate for downtowns, and plan to bring this knowledge and know-how to the rest of Metro Detroit area. Ferndale is still my home, so I will be ever watching, and hope you will uphold our successes and make more along the way.
Thank you for allowing me to serve and work with you all these years! I know that we will continue to see each other around these parts, just under different premises….perhaps as a friend, a neighbor or a consumer.
Please keep Downtown Ferndale strong and growing!
All my best– Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM
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