The board of the French Market Corp. hired a new executive director Tuesday, choosing a local businessman and entrepreneur after talks with the board’s first pick for the job apparently broke down over the position’s salary.
Jon Smith, previously a commercial real estate agent with the Talbot Realty Group, will start at the French Market on Oct. 1, taking the reins of a public benefit corporation that runs the historic city-owned produce market, a collection of shops and restaurants, and other French Quarter properties. Smith will make $110,000 a year.
The French Market board initially selected Valerie Rivers, a lawyer with extensive experience in the public sector who served most recently as head of the Department of Minority Business Development in Richmond, Va.
But the board’s selection committee was apparently unable to persuade Rivers to take the job for $110,000, which is what the previous director, Frank Pizzolato, was making when he quit in December.
In a written statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu praised the board’s second selection. “Jon’s work experience, professional accomplishments and energy make him a natural choice to lead the French Market Corp. and oversee some of the city’s greatest gems,” Landrieu said.
The mayor’s office pointed out that Smith owned and operated Cork & Bottle Fine Wines in Mid-City for 10 years and “brought the farmer’s market concept back to Mid-City for the first time since Hurricane Katrina by founding the Mid-City Green Market.”