Over the past six months, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance has grown its staff while the organization undergoes a restructuring of internal operations.

The genesis of the shake-up was the departure of longtime President and CEO Kraig Kojian in November 2021, one month after an investigation related to alleged worker mistreatment became public. Nearly a year later, in September, the organization announced an internal pick for Kojian’s replacement: then-Economic Development and Policy Manager Austin Metoyer.

While Kojian preferred to be involved in as much of the organization’s operations as possible along with his chief operating officer, Metoyer on Wednesday said he is taking a different approach by divvying up the workload among leadership.

“Everybody has their own style, and my style is that I don’t need to be at every meeting,” Metoyer said. “You have to hire the people that you trust to do the work.”

In December, the DLBA hired Stephanie El Tawil to fill the economic development and policy manager position that Metoyer left open. Then came Operations Manager Juan Torres in January and Communications and Marketing Manager Asia Morris in February. James Ahumada, who previously served as then-Mayor Robert Garcia’s chief of staff, is the organization’s latest hire, coming on as senior vice president and deputy CEO.

Meanwhile, the DLBA’s longtime chief operating officer, Broc Coward, left the organization last month.

As part of the restructuring, Metoyer will focus on board and external relations as well as economic development, while Ahumada will oversee the Clean and Safe Team, beautification and placemaking, and communications. Jeremy Ancalade, meanwhile, who is transitioning from chief financial officer to the new vice president of finance and administration position, will lead business operations, including human resources, finance and accounting.

“I can’t respond to every email and every call … and to every manager’s needs,” Metoyer said. “By giving that up and giving them to someone who is solely responsible for those areas of focus, … it’s just a way of kind of eliminating some of the barriers that perhaps were in the way.”

Several positions are new to the organization under Metoyer’s leadership, including the senior vice president and deputy CEO, operations manager and vice president of finance and administration positions. Two other new positions—business navigator and homeless outreach specialist—have not been filled.

The new positions were called for in the organization’s management plan that came after Kojian’s departure, Metoyer said.

When he assumed the leadership role, Metoyer said the organization was on a hiring freeze despite being short-staffed with only seven full-time employees. With its recent onboarding, the DLBA now has 10 staff members with the expectation to grow to 14 in the coming months, Metoyer said.

The changes, Metoyer said, are expected to make the DLBA more efficient and proactive in its mission to support Downtown businesses.

“I think you’ll just have a much more direct and responsive approach, rather than it being a little bit more nebulous,” Metoyer said. “I think what you’ll see is a lot more intentionality in the work that we do.”

Q&A: Downtown Long Beach Alliance ushers in a new era with CEO Austin Metoyer

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.