There’s been a changing of the guard for the organization charged with guiding downtown Leesburg’s renaissance.
The Historic Downtown Leesburg Association recently welcomed in its new executive committee, and the name at the top of the organization comes with a familiar surname.
Darius Saiedi has taken the reins of HDLA presidency from Gwen Pangle, who served for four years in the post. Saiedi is still a frequent face at his father Fabian’s three King Street restaurants and grew up helping his dad. He’s done just about everything at the family restaurants, from cooking and cleaning to more “macro level” items like strategizing for future business growth.
“Trying to make his life a little bit easier,” he said.
A Leesburg native and 2010 graduate of Loudoun County High School, Saiedi earned his degree in finance from George Mason University and is pursuing a master’s degree in real estate development there. In addition to helping in the restaurants empire, he is an assistant vice president at Bank of Clarke County’s One Loudoun location.
Despite his busy schedule, the millennial feels it’s a natural next step to take up a leadership post with the association.
“I’ve spent so much time there it’s like home. I’ve seen it change over the years. I think it’s come a long way and it’s in a great place today which benefits everybody,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion for the town and this is an opportunity to take a next step and step into a role where I have leadership and responsibilities.”
Aiding him in this journey are two fellow millennials on the board, Melanie Parr from Coldwell Banker and Brooke Nelson from Black Hoof Brewing. Vice President Sola Pallotta from Very Virginia and Chris Padden from Sonabank round out the board.
Of his 20-something cohorts on the board, Saiedi said he believes the inclusion of more millennials at a leadership level is a good step.
“I think it’s a macro trend across all societies and economies right now,” he said. “There’s starting to be a focus on what the millennial generation is doing, and it’s important for Leesburg to focus on that as well. This is a good opportunity to do that and bring our eyes to the decision-making level.”
But Saiedi is quick to credit the work of outgoing president Pangle and other HDLA members who have built the organization to what it is today.
“Continuing with the progress [Gwen] made is one of my priorities,” he said.
Another focus is on unity, “continuing to bring businesses together—to work together, to continue the benefits to the town in ways that help everyone,” he said.
Reflecting on her four-year run as president, and over a decade spent on the executive committee, Pangle said she was proud to hand the torch to Saiedi.
“I think that change is good for everybody,” she said. “I felt like I had probably taken it as far as I could take it, and that maybe having some young blood, new thought processes might take it a little further.”
She cites the opening of the organization to include other downtown interests, including residents and even businesses falling outside the historic district’s boundaries; the start of Family Fun Saturdays; and the significant growth and popularity of First Friday as key accomplishments.
And, of course, downtown’s current boom cannot be forgotten.
“We have become a destination, and that was a goal. Feet on street, heads in the bed, making cash registers ring—a place that people really want to go,” she said. “I think we have really done a lot of that.”