Just Announced: Todd Wolford, a 2022 Mary Means Leadership Award Recipient

  
May 18, 2022 | Just Announced: Todd Wolford, 2022 Mary Means Leadership Award Recipient | By: Alicia Gallo, Senior Manager of Strategic Communications |

Left: Streetscape project kick-off photo with volunteers. Right: Youth Business Scholarship program graduation and check presentation. Credit: Downtown Wytheville Inc.

Main Street America is proud to recognize Todd Wolford, Executive Director of Downtown Wytheville Inc. (DTW), in Wytheville, Virginia, as the 2022 Mary Means Leadership Award recipient. This prestigious award is the organization’s top honor recognizing outstanding leaders in comprehensive preservation-based commercial district revitalization and highlighting the critical role that leaders play in shaping the Main Street Movement. Nominated by members of the Wytheville community and selected by a national jury, Wolford is being recognized for his creative energy, strategic mindset, and coalition-building approach as a Main Street director.

“Main Street directors play a crucial role in the success of their programs,” said President and CEO of Main Street America Patrice Frey. “Since stepping into this role in 2016, Todd’s thoughtful, forward-thinking, and collaborative approach as a Main Street director has rapidly advanced the mission of DTW. And the results of his leadership can be seen throughout the entire community.”

The Department of Housing and Community Development Virginia Main Street program staff nominated Wolford for the award. His nomination and the supporting letters of recommendation from community leaders were unanimous in their description of Todd’s leadership style and transformational accomplishments.

2019 Board of Directors Downtown Wytheville with the new “LOVE” sign. Credit: Michelle Govin.

Wolford has deep roots in Wytheville and family ties to its downtown. His grandfather opened a café on Main Street that was a popular establishment in the 1950s and 1960s. This motivated him to revive this legacy and make an impact in the community while creating change for future generations to come.

He took the helm of the fledgling organization in the throes of a $7 million downtown streetscape project in 2016. Through strong channels of communication and steadfast presence, Wolford built a reputation as a direct, clear, and trustworthy individual. The completed project not only transformed downtown’s curb appeal, but also solidified Wolford and DTW as trusted partners with business owners and local government officials.

The successful streetscape project was just the start of downtown Wytheville’s renaissance under Wolford’s watch. Highlights include the opening of two new anchor breweries (one of which amounted to a $2.6 million private investment, the preservation of a hometown business, and projected $50,000 annual tax benefit to the town), measurable progress on the revitalization of the 92-year-old historic Milward Theater, and innovative pandemic response initiatives. New and seemingly unlikely partnerships including hotel operators located outside of the district have contributed to the physical wellbeing of community members, as well as economic growth for local businesses. Recent awards from the highly competitive Community Block Development Grant small business relief and USDA revolving loan fund programs are bringing much needed financial assistance to downtown businesses, as well as businesses throughout the county.

“I could cite even more statistics, such as a 55% increase in meals and lodging taxes collected, hundreds of volunteers, or [tens] of thousands volunteer hours, but I think his leadership has resulted in something else,” writes Mark J. Bloomfield of Bloomfield Partners. “The feeling in town is different. The demeanor of our citizens, business owners, and visitors is upbeat and positive about what they are experiencing throughout the community.”

Left: Seven Sisters Brewery receives Community Business Launch small business startup grant competition award in 2018. Right: Sturgills Jewelry Ribbon Cutting. Credit: Downtown Wytheville Inc.

In addition to spearheading capacity-building opportunities for local small businesses, community partners, young people, and board members through exciting and innovative initiatives, such as the Evolution Wytheville business plan competition, Invest Youth Scholarship program, and Small Business Saturday events, Wolford is also actively engaged in regional and national community-development spaces. He is an acknowledged leader within the Virginia Main Street network and in the 19-county Southwest Virginia region. Wolford was selected to represent the state of Virginia on the Appalachian Regional Commission Leadership Institute (2020-2021 cohort), was invited to join efforts to close the racial and geographic gaps in economic opportunity through the Brookings Institution Learning Lab, and actively contributes to Main Street America’s entrepreneurial ecosystem strategies for rural communities work.

Despite this impressive resume of accomplishments and the new buzz in town, Wolford is quick to point out that the success of DTW is attributed to—and belongs to—the community.

“This position,” Wolford says, “can empower you to feel like you can achieve anything, and with the right partners and team around you, I honestly think you can.”

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