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Around the Town: ODA Selects Seasoned Leader

Pust - Vira Zvirzdys-Farler

Vida Zvirzdys-Farler, who takes over as Executive Director of Olympia Downtown Association on Jan 1st, 2015, stands outside Batdorf & Bronson on Capitol Way.

DickP photo






Photo and article by
Dick Pust
FTE News Magazine

Meet the new director of the Olympia Downtown Association. She’s Vida Zvirzdys-Farler. (Zvirzdys is Lithuanian and pronounced just like it’s spelled.) Zvirzdys-Farler, who officially takes over the position on January 1st, 2015, will be only the second executive director for the Olympia Downtown Association (ODA) since it was founded in 1998. She’s replacing Connie Lorenz, who along with a board of directors, created the organization that represents the Capitol City’s downtown area.

The new director is someone with deep roots in the community. Zvirzdys-Farler’s parents brought the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to Olympia. Also, many old timers may remember Lee’s Restaurant on Martin Way, which was owned by her uncle. The family believed strongly in supporting local business. Early childhood memories include exploring the waterfront areas near the 5th Avenue KFC and enjoying the annual Lakefair festivals.

The fifty-three-year-old Zvirzdys-Farler was just five years old when she moved from Chicago to Thurston County. She grew up in Tanglewilde and attended Lydia Hawk Elementary and Timberline High School. She later attended the University of Puget Sound with a double major of business and design and textiles.

Just before stepping into the position of ODA Executive Director, Zvirzdys-Farler was employed by the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation. Her work there involved the preservation of local history, which ties in perfectly with part of the mission of the ODA. That mission is to “preserve, promote, and enhance the downtown community.” That includes the preservation of Olympia’s rich history. Zvirzdys-Farler also had prior experience with the ODA. She spent four years as its Volunteer and Event Coordinator. She said she loved the job, but found it necessary to leave so she could devote full time to taking care of her mother who was in failing health. She re-entered the job market when her mother passed away at the age of 80.

The new director is excited about her new position. Looking to the future, Zvirzdys-Farler says, “If you improve your city, people come. The whole area is lifted up. It’s about creating jobs and building a strong community.” The president of the ODA board of directors, Jerry Farmer, thinks Zvirzdys-Farler will make a great executive director. “She loves downtown, can work with a diverse group of people, and she has a passion for the mission of the ODA.” Farmer says the new director will be working with businesses that have been downtown for a long time and also be working with brand new eclectic businesses. He’s confident Zvirzdys-Farler is up to the challenge. Retiring director Connie Lorenz agrees. She says, “I’m sure she’ll enjoy the job as much as I did.” By the way, Lorenz and her husband Mark are moving to Chelan on the other side of the mountains, but Lorenz says she plans to return to Olympia often as she loves this city and has put a lot of herself into making it what it is today.

Even though Zvirzdys-Farler won’t officially take over the reins of executive director until January, she’s been working full time at the ODA since October. One of the first things she did was attend the “Mainstreet Retreat” with Connie Lorenz at the Alderbrook Inn in Mason County. The Mainstreet program helps smaller communities like Olympia become more vibrant through modern design concepts while at the same time, preserving its history. Job creation is part of the plan, too.

Zvirzdys-Farler and her husband , Don Farler, who is the athletic director at Black Hills High School, have three grown children. They are 25-year-old Tivoli, 23-year-old Sarunas, and 22-year-old Lidija. “Two of our kids are graduating from college. Our oldest daughter is getting married, and I got a new job. Everything kind of happened at once. It’s exciting,” says Zvirzdys-Farler. Yes, it is exciting. Take a look at some of the recent changes in downtown Olympia. The future looks bright, not only for Vida Zvirzdys-Farler, but for our beautiful downtown.

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