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City hires events planner

Position vacant since start of pandemic

YOUNGSTOWN — The city has a new downtown events and citywide special projects coordinator after not having one since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown announced Friday the hiring of Melanie Clarke-Penella, who operates a local film company, to the job that’s been vacant since January 2020.

“I was impressed by what she’s done in New York and elsewhere,” Brown said. “She’s back home in the community. She’ll be a great asset to downtown. She’ll do well.”

Clarke-Penella is the owner and executive producer of Youngstown Pictures, which made two films in the city that haven’t yet been released. She also was the producer of three film shorts.

She is a publicist for Lexicon Public Relations of New York City and Los Angeles; was the vice president of business development for Digital Launch, a New York City marketing and management firm; and was associate director of admissions for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where she studied film animation.

“I did a lot of event planning,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to help Youngstown and be part of the renaissance, and now I have that opportunity.”

Clarke-Penella, 39, moved from Youngstown when she was 18 and returned to the city during the pandemic.

“My priorities are to be a wonderful liaison between the city government and downtown, nonprofit organizations and businesses,” she said. “I feel there’s been a disconnect, mostly because of the pandemic, and I want to find a harmony.”

Clarke-Penella’s annual salary will be about $44,000, and she’ll be a city employee unlike the previous person to hold the position.

The job has been vacant since city council voted Jan. 15, 2020, not to renew the annual contract of Terrill Vidale, through his 2Deep Entertainment business, for the job. Without funding, Vidale lost the job.

Vidale was paid $42,436 annually without benefits on a contract. He was the third coordinator in a little more than six years for the city.

The coordinator reports directly to the mayor and works closely with the 1st Ward council member, downtown businesses, property owners and stakeholders as well as with people, groups and organizations interested in using the downtown central business district for activities or special events.

The coordinator’s primary purpose is to provide, coordinate and assist in implementing marketing, promotional and social events that promote the city and foster downtown development and redevelopment.

A prior search in February 2020 attracted 33 applicants, but the pandemic hit, causing the cancellation of numerous events, and no one was hired.

Brown had another search last September with 10 applicants. That search moved slowly.

Clarke-Penella, who was not among the original 10 applicants,said she didn’t apply until about four months ago. Brown said he received other applications after the September deadline.

“She’s ready to do the work,” Brown said of Clarke-Penella. “We’ve been doing permits and requests for funding so no one has been missing out.”

But the city needs someone full time, he said.

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