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|Meet New Manager for Santa Monica's Downtown Ambassadors|
By Ann K. Williams
January 27, 2011 -- Paulita Elliott may be new to Bayside District, but the five-year Navy veteran, who was recently hired as operations manager of Downtown's popular Ambassador Program, is no stranger to the challenges that await her.
“I love challenges,” Elliott says after a week of heavy rains during the hectic holiday season that taxed her staff to the limit. “At the end of the day, knowing that I've conquered a challenge, that I've learned something new, that's rewarding for me.”
A former aviation boatswain's mate tasked with helping launch and recover naval aircraft quickly and safely from land or ships, the energetic mother of two boys is clearly a match for anything the weather has to throw at her.
“You have to adjust and still give great hospitality, keep a good atmosphere,” Elliott says.
And she handles it all with a smile and an open, friendly attitude.
Elliott, who worked as program manager for the Ambassador Program in Long Beach before coming to Santa Monica in October, sees her job as serving visitors to Bayside District and helping Downtown businesses flourish.
“We're selling the businesses because we create a hospitality environment,” Elliott says. “When people come in, they realize, 'Oh, I come to Santa Monica, I can go shop, someone can locate my car, they're giving me hellos, I can get a safety escort.'"
When a visitor asks where to get a burger, or what store sells a particular brand of perfume, the Ambassadors can give customers a variety of options depending on what they are looking for, Elliott says.
And if customers need directions, all a local business owner has to do is call Elliott's office and an escort will show up to take the visitors to their next destination, carrying any extra bags that might weigh them down.
It's a form of marketing, Elliott says, adding that her staff of 40 plus can help local businesses by providing direct services as well. If, for example, an employee needs a safety escort to the parking structure late at night, an Ambassador is always there to help.
But Elliott's vision of service sometimes goes beyond the call of duty.
When Long Beach was hit with heavy flooding last year, her staff filled sandbags and delivered them to local merchants. This December, her Santa Monica staff helped out stores hit by a power blackout by providing light.
And under Elliott's desk in Parking Structure 3 lies a brand-new car battery jumper – the old one got used to the max during the recent rains, she says. The Ambassadors don't just wait for the jump-starting business to come to them, she adds. They go out of their way to offer it.
“We'll go into structures, and if we see that the lights are on, we'll leave a business card,” Elliott says. “So if your lights are out or if your battery's dead, just call and you'll get a jump.”
Probably the most popular service Ambassadors offer Bayside visitors is finding lost cars. Many visitors come from out of town, Elliott explains, and they get confused because the parking structures look alike.
So her staff is trained in a procedure that narrows down the possibilities – from checking color-coded tickets to asking visitors what they first saw when they left the structure.
“I know we've never not located a car,” Elliott says with a laugh. “Sometimes it has taken a while, but that's one of the things people are most happy about, the motorist's assist.”
A fan of motivational literature – she loves to read when she's not busy cheering on her son's football team – Elliott's positive attitude emerges when she talks about her job.
“You're always meeting someone new, you're always helping someone new, and there's just a feeling of reward,” she says. “It's not necessarily about the pay, it's about the experience and what you get out of it.
“Helping people, meeting somebody, putting a smile on their face at the end of the day is definitely rewarding.”
“I love challenges.” Paulita Elliott
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