French Market Corp. executive director resigns

French Market Corp. Executive Director Jon Smith is stepping down and returning to the private sector after about two years leading the city agency, which oversees the historic market and other properties in the French Quarter.

Smith said he will be going back to commercial real estate with the Talbot Realty Group, where he worked before he was hired by the French Market.

“I felt like I had accomplished all the major things I had set out to accomplish at the French Market,” Smith said. “Even though I had envisioned myself being at the French Market longer — coinciding with the mayor’s term — it’s in a good place, it’s running fine, and I had an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.”

The French Market Corp. runs the market and the Upper Pontalba Building on Jackson Square, as well as several parking lots and Crescent Park. As a public-benefit corporation, it returns some of its revenue to the city.

Among his primary accomplishments, Smith cited an increase in the amount his agency contributes to the city after moving its parking operations in-house. The French Market now provides about $2.4 million a year to the city, up from about $1 million in the past. “That turned out to a wildly profitable thing for us,” Smith said.

He said the agency also has smoothed over various problems that existed when he took over, including lawsuits over rental rates and changes to its vendor policies. Those issues were hammered out, and the organization also was able to expand its fresh food market during Smith’s tenure.

“We established a really good template for how to do things,” he said.

Smith will remain with the French Market until Jan. 29. Its board of directors will meet Tuesday to discuss the selection of the next executive director.

Smith succeeded Frank Pizzolato, who resigned at the end of 2013.

Pizzolato later filed a lawsuit against the French Market board, claiming it forced him out because he was white and because he was investigating whether a tenant was improperly using electricity paid for by the market. That suit was thrown out in September.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.

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