The D.C. Food Truck Association held its annual meeting — its first — yesterday, and one of the first orders of business was naming a new executive director. Kristi Whitfield, co-owner of Curbside Cupcakes, decided to step down after a year in the job.
“I would say that it’s important for such a young organization to not get too attached to one executive director,” Whitfield said this afternoon. ”It’s important to draw upon the diverse talents of the organization.”
Besides, she noted, she won’t exactly be sitting on the sidelines now. “I do intend to remain extremely engaged” with the association.
Replacing Whitfield is Che Ruddell-Tabisola, co-owner and operator of the BBQ Bus. Ruddell-Tabisola is a founding member of the association, even though he and his partner didn’t launch their truck until April of last year.
“I have some very good experience that we can put to use,” Ruddell-Tabisola said during a phone interview. “I offer some experience in terms of the mechanics of the campaign and all the many pieces of the campaign,” including communications and media relations.
Ruddell-Tabisola’s experience could come in handy for the Food Truck Association, a 33-member group that has next to nothing in terms of finances and only a part-time lobbyist to do its bidding. The association is in a dogfight with bricks-and-mortar restaurants and their allies, such as the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, over new vending regulations that will determine the future of food trucks and carts in the District.
The proposed vending regulations, which the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued on Jan. 20, are viewed as far more food-truck friendly than the ones published 19 months earlier. Ruddell-Tabisola credits the positive changes to Whitfield and the other first-year executives with the association.
“The conversation around mobile vending has changed dramatically” because of the association, the new executive director noted.
Still, Ruddell-Tabisola pointed out, the proposed regulations are “not perfect.” The association picked apart certain sections of the proposed rules in an online petition
“We have some serious concerns,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “Number one is those proposed vending development zones. We don’t want them to create food-truck-free zones.”
Whitfield said she had hoped to see new vending regulations approved during her tenure as executive director, but “that took longer than we all thought.” Regardless, she says she’s pleased that she helped take a group of “very passionate” food truck owners and operators and “bring [them] together to be unified.”
The truck operators were practically forced to unite back in December 2010 when some lobbyists were trying to persuade the city to pass emergency legislation that would establish a moratorium on food trucks, essentially squashing the burgeoning scene.
“A year ago, nobody thought that anybody would fight back against the emergency legislation,” Whitfield said. “Honestly, it was the reason why we needed an association to protect ourselves.”