IOWA CITY — The Iowa City night life is going to have a new face by the end of the month.
The Iowa City Downtown District Tuesday announced a steering committee selected Angela Winnike, chief of retail operations for Java House and Heirloom, as the district’s first “nighttime mayor.” Winnike, who plans to keep her day job, is expected to begin on April 27 and is tasked with becoming a “go-to person” for nighttime businesses like bars and restaurants and being a liaison between those businesses and the community and city.
“I think our plan is to make the position very visible so that people can approach me if they have questions,” Winnike said. “Initially, my goal is to get out there and get to know the business owners, managers and the point of contact at night and to create a good communication tool.”
Winnike, 34, who grew up in Iowa City, is scheduled to be on duty Thursday through Saturday from 7 p.m. until around the time bars close at 2 a.m.
Nancy Bird, executive director of the Downtown District, said Winnike also is likely to work about four hours during the week for staff meetings and stakeholder or city meetings. Otherwise, the position’s part time hours can be adjusted based on what works best.
In her new position, Winnike said she’ll lean on her community relations and marketing skills, as well as her experience managing more than 200 staff members during her day job. She also said she’s a night owl, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
Winnike previously served on the Downtown District’s board of directors and stepped down to take the position. Bird said Winnike’s communication skills and businesses relationships stood out on her application as did her experience with the district.
“She knows as lot about what the Downtown District’s goals are as an organization and we didn’t have to bring her up to speed on what the mission was and why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Bird said.
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The district’s nighttime mayor position isn’t the first of its kind — Bird said other cities like San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Austin have had successful nighttime mayors, which borrowed the idea from European cities.
Winnike said for the position to be a success, it must “foster a positive image of downtown to the rest of the community” and fill the gap between Downtown District or city staff who often go home just as bar managers and owners get into work.
“When you think of downtown Iowa City, it is the bar and night life that you think of and they haven’t had the voice to the rest of the community to communicate what they have to offer,” Winnike said.
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