WATERVILLE, Maine — Shannon Haines plans to resign in the fall as executive director of Waterville Main Street after nine years on the job.
Haines, 36, said she has enjoyed her work but looks forward to pursuing new opportunities and having more personal time when she leaves at the end of September.
“The amazing thing about this position is, if you have a good idea and can rally support for it, you can make it happen,” Haines said Monday. “Waterville is a community that is a manageable size and it’s relatively easy to approach, for example, the city administration and City Council to get support for your ideas.”
Waterville Main Street, instituted in 2001, seeks to make the downtown a thriving and energetic destination spot that includes commercial, social, cultural and entertainment activities.
Haines, working with an administrative assistant and a 16-member board of directors, has helped secure and administer more than $1 million in grant funds to aid business owners with facade improvements. They also have helped develop a gateway and plaza at Head of Falls, institute a city branding initiative, create Barrels Community Market, start a forgivable loan program, create a downtown farmers’ market and organize year-round festival activities.
Barrels is nationally recognized as a model for community-supported enterprise.
“It’s been a really rewarding job,” Haines said. “There are lots of projects I’m very proud of, including the farmers’ market and Barrels Community Market. Barrels is a vibrant community hub and supports 300 Maine vendors. It’s really building the local economy.”
Haines says she has no specific plans for future employment, but she plans to stay in Waterville, volunteer for future projects and remain executive director of the Maine International Film Festival.
That event brings about 100 independent American and foreign-made films to Waterville for 10 days in July. Haines works part-time for the Maine Film Center, the parent organization of the Waterville film festival, which starts Friday.
She has received many statewide honors as part of her work with Waterville Main Street, including the Maine Development Foundation’s Ken Curtis Leadership Award and the Maine Downtown Center’s Downtown Visionary Award.
Haines serves on various boards, including the Maine Arts Commission, Maine Downtown Center Advisory Board and Waterville Regional Arts & Community Center.
“She’s probably one of the most dedicated and hardworking economic development people we have had in the city in the last 10 years,” Mayor Karen Heck said Monday. “She works tirelessly to promote Waterville and downtown, she’s collaborative, she’s imaginative, she’s enthusiastic and she has been a huge help to the city’s rejuvenation.”
Heck, a former member of Waterville Main Street’s board of directors who was vice president for much of that time, was on a team that hired Haines in 2003. Heck has watched Haines become well-known in her position through her successful projects.
“She is asked to speak at conferences in Maine and across the country, and we’ve been blessed to have her here, working for us,” Heck said.
Patrick Michaud, president of the Waterville Main Street Board of Directors, issued a news release listing Haines’ accomplishments and recognizing her as a creative thinker and a leader in downtown revitalization.
During Haines’ tenure, Waterville Main Street helped to bring 220 full-time jobs to the city, according to information issued by the program. For every $1 invested in the program, an additional $37.29 was invested in downtown.
“Honestly, that is an amazing economic development engine she’s been powering,” Heck said.
A graduate of Skowhegan Area High School and Middlebury College in Vermont, Haines worked as a recycling planner for the state Planning Office before coming to Waterville Main Street.
The Main Street program is funded by the city, Colby College, MaineGeneral Medical Center, Inland Hospital and businesses both in and outside Waterville.
Her position will be advertised this week and her office will accept applications through July 27, she said.
Haines sent an email Friday to business owners, Main Street volunteers and others who have supported her program.
“My heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have dedicated your time, talent, financial resources and positive energy to make our downtown and the greater community a more vibrant place,” it says.
She listed statistics that demonstrate the “measurable progress made in downtown” over the last 10 years, including 31 net new businesses, $44.8 million in public and private downtown investment, 19,632 volunteer hours, 99 rehabilitations and improvements, 25 public improvement projects and 77 housing units created.
Haines, who worked 10- and 12-hour days and usually on weekends as well, said she thinks a change in leadership at Waterville Main Street will be a good thing.
“We’ll find somebody who’s energetic and fresh and has a new perspective,” she said.
(c)2012 Morning Sentinel (Waterville, Maine)
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