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Cohen named head of Downtown Business Assoc.

Russ Cohen brings marketing, civic-leadership experience to job

Russ Cohen, a Burlingame resident with decades of marketing experience, completed his first week of work Friday (Jan. 14) as the new head of the Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association.

"It's day five and I'm just trying to figure it all out. You'll see me getting input from those who shop, dine and work downtown," he said.

Cohen served as a Burlingame City Council member from 2005 to 2007 and participated in the Burlingame Business Improvement District. He said he frequently visits downtown Palo Alto to shop.

"I know the Peninsula landscape very well," he said.

Cohen's two decades in the marketing world have included stints as vice president of Foote, Cohen and Belding, and creative director at Resource Marketing and Hyperion Solutions. Among his former clients are Apple, Intuit, HP and Visa.

Cohen has won several Peninsula Press Club awards for political cartoons published by the San Mateo Daily Journal. He also co-founded Burlingame-based High Speed Boondoggle, which fights the controversial California high-speed rail project.

Cohen said that while he doesn't intend to merge his commitments to the project with his new appointment, his position will inform his work in Palo Alto.

"Downtown has to recognize good transportation policy: It's integral to the success of downtown," he said.

The Palo Alto Downtown Business and Professional Association, formed six years ago, has been in flux since the resignation of longtime leader Sherry Bijan last May.

Cohen will be paid $60,000 a year to manage day-to-day operations and future planning.

While he said that his plans for Palo Alto's downtown are a work in progress, Cohen was clear on his basic goals.

"We have to focus on the fundamentals. My focus is on making sure that downtown is the most vibrant, the cleanest and the most attractive that it can be," he said.

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