Christopher Pineda has begun work as the newest executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, the nonprofit responsible for community development and attracting investment to the Harford County seat.
Pineda, 24, of Dundalk, started on July 22. He has spent his time meeting multiple community leaders, including Bel Air town government officials, Downtown Alliance board members, alliance volunteers, representatives of alliance member organizations and business owners and operators. He said alliance board president Donna Dickey has been taking him around town and introducing him to people.
“Within the past week, I have been meeting so many different people and stakeholders,” Pineda said Thursday afternoon.
He said members of the community, such as civic and business leaders, “are very close together and [have] the same visions toward revitalizing the town, strengthening the alliance.”
“There’s such a mix between retail and restaurants and service [businesses]” he said of Bel Air’s downtown area. “That makes it so special and unique.”
Pineda has also been preparing for next month’s Maryland State BBQ Bash, scheduled for Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 in the parking lot of the Mary E. W. Risteau District Court & Multi-Service Center in downtown Bel Air. The event, founded in 2002, typically draws thousands of people to Bel Air and is the largest annual fundraiser for the Downtown Alliance.
Admission is free; more information is available online at https://downtownbelair.com/md-bbq-bash.
The Bash will be preceded by this Saturday’s “Roll Out the Barrel” event, also hosted by the Downtown Alliance. Roll Out the Barrel, a ticketed event featuring tastings of premium bourbon, barbecue, cigars and live music, is in its fourth year. It is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. at the Bel Air Armory, and tickets are $75 each — they can be obtained via the alliance website, https://downtownbelair.com, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event has, in previous years, been part of the BBQ Bash, happening Friday evenings, but Pineda said Roll Out the Barrel has been “detached” from the bash this year. He said the “exclusive event” is an opportunity to do more promotion for the bash the following weekend.
“We want everybody to come out to both events and have a good time,” Pineda said.
Pineda comes to the Bel Air Downtown Alliance from the nonprofit Dundalk Renaissance, where he was responsible for running the organization’s Main Street program plus its business incubator and co-working space, according to a news release from the Bel Air alliance.
He has earned a bachelor’s degree in governmental and public policy and is working on earning an MBA from the University of Baltimore. Pineda also has experience with business development, community engagement, grant writing and program administration, the release said.
“We are thrilled to have found Chris,” Dickey said in a statement. "He built strong relationships with the business and property owners in his previous position, and we are confident that he will bring that to the alliance.”
Pineda, who was hired by the alliance board of directors, said he and his wife, Brittany, could start looking for a house in the Bel Air area in the next year or two. They have been married for three months and are expecting their first child; Pineda’s wife works as an accountant, he said.
Serving as executive director for a nonprofit organization such as the Bel Air Downtown Alliance has been a career goal, Pineda said, and being able to continue working with another Main Street-related organization “was definitely a highlight as well.”
There are Main Street-designated communities around the country, including 30 in Maryland. Aspects of the program include community organization, promoting events, design matters such as preserving historic structures and fostering economic vitality — Maryland’s Main Street program has a fifth pillar, a “clean and green” initiative, Pineda said.
“I just look forward to working with everybody in Harford County and the Bel Air Area as we work together to strengthen the town,” he said.