Roosevelt Row co-founder steps down, new leadership shares bright outlook

(Alexis Macklin/DD)

Dale Erquiaga took over from Roosevelt Row co-founder Cindy Dach as the new Community Development Corporation director two months ago. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

By Linnea Bennett

Roosevelt Row co-founder Cindy Dach has stepped down as the district’s Community Development Corporation director to welcome Dale Erquiaga, who has been in the position in for two months.

Dach, who co-founded the walkable arts district Roosevelt Row with husband, Greg Esser, served as director for the past two years. She said it was an easy step down as she felt it was time to make room for new perspective.

“We had finally grown enough where it was time to pay someone to do it … to bring someone in who had a background in nonprofit and who could dedicate more time,” she said. “It was easy to step out of the way for the greater good.”

Erquiaga was one of more than thirty applicants, but Dach said his background in nonprofit and government work made him the perfect fit for the job.

Erquiaga moved to Phoenix from Nevada for the first time seven years ago. It wasn’t long after his arrival that he became acquainted with the people behind Roosevelt Row.

“A friend of mine did an event with them around summer solstice five years ago as a fundraiser,” he said. “My first experience was making sangria for that house party.”

It was at this party that Erquiaga met Dach and Esser, whose passion and commitment to the organization stood out.

“The work that they’re doing on behalf of the arts community here is unprecedented in any place that I’ve ever worked,” he said. “What they’ve managed to do here and the support of this community is pretty big.”

Erquiaga remained in tune to the work Roosevelt Row was doing, even when he moved back to Nevada for two years. During this time he served as a senior adviser to the newly-elected Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

After two years in the Governor’s office, Erquiaga returned to the Valley where his two children live. He was also excited to become involved in a city so different from his own.

The city of Phoenix is half the size of Nevada’s entire state population. The urban landscape was a big change for Erquiaga, who grew up on a farm.

“For me, this is a big deal,” he said, laughing.

Erquiaga, 50, is familiar with working for larger institutions. His first job out of college was in Washington, D.C., for the Reagan administration. He has also worked for well-known nonprofits including Newman Services and the American Red Cross.

Because he has heavy experience in both government and non-profit sectors, Erquiaga hopes to be a balanced guide for Roosevelt Row as it enters its teenage years.

MonOrchid owner and Roosevelt Row member Wayne Rainey was nervous for the organization’s sustainability in the next few years.

“This next period of growth will define Roosevelt Row,” Rainey said. “Hopefully the next director will have the wisdom to listen to their predecessors and understand the vulnerability and the fragility of this really incredible little arts district.”

Erquiaga said he understood Roosevelt Row is heading into its adolescence and is finding new ways to relate to the community.

“Grants will have to be sustained going forward, which means we need to design programs that are meaningful to the community and that are appealing to partnerships,” he said. “Whether it’s government funded or from private foundations, we have to be true to our program.”

Erquiaga’s business skills could establish the financial sustainability of Roosevelt Row and his appreciation for the arts will keep true to the community goals of the organization.

As a painfully shy teenager, his parents pushed him into trying drama. Years later, Erquiaga said the experience shaped the person he later became.

“I would have been a CPA or a librarian or somebody very quiet had my parents not pushed me into the arts,” he said. “I believe art transforms individuals and … I believe arts transform communities.”

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