McLeese new director of Main Street

In hiring Stefanie McLeese as its new executive director, Monticello Main Street has an individual with 15 years of public relations experience with recognizable companies that include Nissan, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Basketball Association.

But she also knows what it’s like to live in a small town, having graduated from Huckabay High School in Huckabay, Texas, about 60 miles north of Fort Worth.

“I was one of 18 in my graduating class,” said McLeese, who now lives with her husband and three children near White Heath.

After nearly a decade in the world of corporate PR, McLeese started her own firm in 2011. That eventually led to her recently taking on director of public relations duties at Lodgic Everyday Community, a new coworking-childcare-food/drink location in Champaign.

Reducing her duties as a business owner also opened up time for her to slide into the directorship at Main Street, a part-time post. She takes the reigns from Kerry Redshaw, who recently retired after five years at the helm.

For McLeese, who has children aged 6, 4 and 3, it was all about a switch from a vocation that required extensive travel to one where she could spend more time with her family.

“Doing what I do, I was running all over the place – physically and mentally,” she said. “Meanwhile my kids are growing up.”

“I love being a working mom, so for me this was sort of that perfect fit of being able to do my craft that I love and am good at, and being closer to my kids’ school, having an office here in town,” she added.

She also feels it is a good fit professionally.

“It feels very much like I have a skill set that makes sense for what the organization is trying to achieve. So it feels like a good fit professionally,” said McLeese.

As for Main Street, formed in 1996 to help preserve the historic downtown and promote economic vitality in the historic downtown business district, McLeese sees great potential. From a foundation formed by Redshaw that has developed the annual Monticellobration event, summer farmer’s market, business bootcamp program and sold out-wine tours, she would like to use her communication skills to recruit more Main Street board members and volunteers to the organization.

She feels that will come from promoting “place attachment” – making volunteerism a natural outgrowth of pride in a community.

“There is a difference between a space and a place. Place has a meaningful experience attached to a space. That is how you get volunteers. They are attached to a place due to their pride in the community, and it just becomes a natural part of making their community a place they want to be,” she added.

McLeese also said it is important to organize volunteers so they have a clear vision of their role, adding that 53 percent of volunteers said in a recent survey they were not given specific tasks, a major reason why some do not stay.

“Their bubble is burst when they don’t have clear direction,” added the Texas native.

In addition to running Main Street events, McLeese plans to do plenty of research before making any changes, including a possible community visioning process “to understand what the market really wants, and I think that we need to look at numbers, our demographics.”

She also wants to use some of the national Main Street organizational tactics she learned at a recent national conference, such as their priorities of economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.

Redshaw has been training her successor, and feels Main Street is in good hands.

“I am just thrilled with her. I think she is going to be fabulous,” said Redshaw. “She has a great demeanor and is intelligent. She went around with me on Chocolate Fantasy and she knew everyone. She’s younger and I think that’s important. That’s the generation that needs to be making decisions on the future of downtown.”

She has lived in Piatt County since 2015. Her husband, Zach, is a Monticello High School graduate.

About Main Street
Monticello Main Street, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 by concerned local volunteers dedicated to historic preservation and to strengthening our community’s economic growth. The main area of concentration is in the downtown business district, and the extended fringe area of Monticello’s downtown.

Monticello Main Street also plans events throughout the year like the May Market in May, and the Farmer’s Market from June through October, and the Monticellobration in the Fall.

It’s mission is “to strengthen the vitality of Monticello’s Downtown by promoting civic pride, encouraging growth, and preserving and improving community involvement and resources.”

The National Main Street Center was established as a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1980 as a way to address the myriad issues facing older and historic downtowns during that time. Working with a nationwide network of coordinating programs and local communities, Main Street has helped over 2,000 communities across the country bring economic vitality back downtown, while celebrating their historic character, and bringing communities together.

The National Main Street Center is based in Chicago, Illinois, with an office in Washington, DC, and field staff located throughout the country.


 

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