Main Spotlight: Main Street Mayors

  
February 12, 2020 | Main Street Mayors: Civic Leaders Can Learn About Main Street Success Stories at Main Street Now Conference Sessions | By Andy Rhodes, Texas Historical Commission, Communications Division

Denison_Pic_Edited.jpgMain Street in Denison. Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

The Texas Main Street Program, Texas Historical Commission, and Friends of the Texas Historical Commission will co-host the 2020 Main Street Now Conference in Dallas, May 18–20, with the opening reception occurring the night of May 17. Get to know our host city, state, and Main Street communities through this special blog series. Conference registration is now open, with early bird rates through Feb. 18.

The best ambassador for local Main Street programs is often one of the most popular people in town: the mayor. He or she spends a lot of time in the community talking about the city’s attributes to stakeholders—from civic leaders to business owners to philanthropic groups. The more they know about the positive impact Main Street has in the community, the better exposure the program will receive.

Texas has 90 fully designated Main Street communities, so plenty of mayors across the state can provide testament to the benefits the program offers. At the Main Street Now Conference in Dallas, three Texas mayors from vastly different cities in the Lone Star State will speak at education sessions about how they’re implementing Main Street principles in their communities.

Several of these options  will focus on the challenges and successes Texas mayors have experienced, with input from fellow city representatives who help execute Main Street’s objectives.The following sessions represent a wide range of Texas’ cultural, geographic, and civic diversity.

These sessions are part of a variety of conference opportunities tailored for Civic Leaders. Local elected officials and senior-level local government staff will receive a discounted registration rate of just $125 at the Main Street Now Conference, along with an exclusive invitation to the Civic Leaders Forum and access to a specialized education session track. Learn more about conference opportunities for Civic Leaders and eligibility here.


Successful Leadership on Main Street: Mayor on Main

In 1988, then-Denison Mayor Ronnie Cole attended a Main Street-related program at a national conference by chance and was inspired to initiate the process of joining Main Street. Since Denison’s official designation 30 years ago, the city has had six mayors, three city managers, and only five directors—a stable and supportive environment in the Main Street world. They were also recently named a 2020 Great American Main Street Award semifinalist! Denison's conference session will share ways to replicate this culture. Their success can be attributed to strong stakeholder and volunteer engagement—when there is occasion for public input, the city has traditionally risen to the occasion.

Eisenhower_Edited.jpgEisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site in Denison. Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

Current Mayor Janet Gott continues this approach, ensuring Main Street remains the heart of the community. To demonstrate this guiding principle, she started a program called "Mayor on Main," where she and the Main Street director personally visit each business to hear concerns and share information—no easy task as Denison has the longest Main Street district in Texas. Learn more about their conference session highlighting "Mayor on Main" here.

Gott is retired from BAG Corp and has 30-plus years of experience in progressive planning, implementation, and management in manufacturing operations. She is a lifelong resident of Denison and served two terms on the Denison City Council prior to being elected as the city’s first female mayor. 

Note: Denison will also be the focus of a conference field session and is home to a distinctive heritage tourism destination, the Texas Historical Commission’s Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.


Main Street on the Border: Shared Visions in Brownsville

Brownsville Mayor Juan “Trey” Mendez knows his city is not a typical Main Street community. Residents consider themselves fronterizos—a border community with a 94 percent Hispanic population and a strong relationship with Mexican sister city Matamoros. Brownsville’s dichotomous economy is unique to border communities, which often struggle to cater to both international and local consumers.

Brownville_edit.jpgMarket Square in Brownsville. Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

However, Brownsville has similarities to other Main Street communities across the nation. Notably, it faces the same challenges as cities dealing with the rise of suburbanization causing the abandonment of downtowns.

This conference session will tell the story of how the city sparked a resurgence downtown, utilizing the Main Street Approach as a unifying vision. Through interactive storytelling, learn how Brownsville’s Main Street program helped serve as the catalyst for renewed interest and increased private investment downtown while preserving its binational and bicultural heritage. Learn more here.

Mayor Mendez, born and raised in Brownsville, is a lawyer and currently serves on the Brownsville Community Foundation Board of Directors. He is the co-founder and vice president of the Brownsville Preservation Society, and recently co-founded Dodici Pizza and Wine, a restaurant located across the street from Downtown Brownsville's Market Square.


Building Bastrop: Honoring Authenticity While Building a Sustainable Future

Bastrop Mayor Connie Schroeder is a strong believer in her city’s Building Bastrop initiative. The program serves as a roadmap to guide responsible development that honors Bastrop’s past and prepares for its sustainable future.

Bastrop_Edited.jpgMain Street in Bastrop. Courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.

Main Street plays an important role in making Bastrop more accessible, livable, and fiscally sustainable, building on the timeless setting that has attracted people for more than 180 years. In addition to traditional media outreach, the city has hosted rodeos, open houses, walking and biking tours, and a Pop-Up Main Street event to capture the imagination of its residents.

During this conference session, participants will learn about the steps that made the Building Bastrop initiative successful and hear from elected officials and staff who collaborated to turn Building Bastrop from policy to reality while re-writing the city’s development codes. The session will include strategies for garnering input, educating residents, and building support for transformational and challenging initiatives. Learn more here.

Mayor Schroeder is a 14-year resident of Bastrop. During that time, she has served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and was elected by the Bastrop Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee to serve as its chair.


Additional Education Sessions

In addition to these sessions, other education sessions showcasing Texas projects include:


Let’s Texas, Main Street!

The Let’s Texas, Main Street Sweepstakes has launched! Enter now for your chance to win a trip for two to Denton, a Great American Main Street Award™ winner located just north of Dallas. If you’re attending the Main Street Now conference and you win the travel prize, you could stay a few extra days during the Memorial Day weekend!

Sweepstakes.jpg

The Texas Historical Commission and partners are offering the Let’s Texas, Main Street Sweepstakes to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Main Street America and the Texas Main Street Program. One lucky, randomly selected person will win a travel prize package featuring two nights of lodging, dining, tours, and more in Denton, which is celebrating its 30th year as a Main Street community this year.

Sponsors of Let’s Texas, Main Street! are the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Main Street Program, Travel Texas, City of Denton, Discover Denton, and Denton Main Street Association.

Learn more and enter at letstexasmainstreet.com.

About the Author:
Andy Rhodes has been managing editor of the Texas Historical Commission’s Medallion magazine since 2002.
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