SEASIDE - The Seaside Downtown Development Association announced the retirement of its executive director and the appointment of her successor Thursday.

Dolna Mespelt, who has served as the director since October 1997, is stepping down effective June 1. Bree Phillips will take over May 5.

Phillips was formerly employed as a sales representative for the Seaside Signal. She thanked board members and others in the SDDA for their support.

"We're a progressive group," she said. "I'm so proud to be a part of the organization."

Keith Chandler, president of the SDDA's board or directors, said Phillips already has demonstrated a solid, positive rapport with business owners.

Phillips, 23, was raised in Yachats and is familiar with efforts to promote tourism. Her mother owns a small business and her father had been involved in logging and natural resources management.

She graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor's degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in education

Her husband, Matt Phillips, is from Astoria. "We love to live on the coast for the quality of life," she said.

She commended Mespelt. "She's a great mentor and she does a great job - I've got big shoes to fill."

Mespelt, in turn, commended her successor and said she will work closely with her in forthcoming weeks. Mespelt plans to stay in the community and will remain active with the organization, she added.

She will be chairwoman of this year's Seaside Hotrod Happenin' committee, a popular event which she developed for SDDA, as well as the Beach Run. She also plans to continue representing the SDDA on the Seaside Public Safety Committee and will volunteer as a resident on the Seaside Promotions Committee.

Mespelt said the organization has grown to 90 people, and four times as many people typically attend SDDA meetings as they did five years ago.

"I've been here 31 years, I love it here," Mespelt said. That love is why Seaside is easy for her to publicize to others, she added.

An update about Seaside promotional activities rounded out discussion by SDDA members Thursday. Lesle Palmeri, who has been hired as a consultant, discussed opportunities with radio and television advertising.

Promotions Committee members and the parade float from Seaside recently had appeared at the spring 2003 Puyallup Trade Show in Puyallup, Wash. From a booth, they fielded questions, offered Seaside computer screen savers and distributed visitors' guides.

Occasionally participants heard odd comments from people who had previously visited Seaside. One person who had attended the Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament, for example, remarked that she enjoyed the event but "there was too much sand."

Rather than video presentations of the town, "it's the human touch that they like," Mespelt said. "Most people want to know what's going on here - it's all about destination, destination, destination."