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Just Announced: John Bry Named 2023 Mary Means Leadership Award Recipient


March 29, 2023 | Just Announced: John Bry Named 2023 Mary Means Leadership Award Recipient

Left: John Bry presents County Proclamations to representatives from Madison Heights in recognition of the organization joining the MSOC network. Right: John Bry serving as the master of ceremonies at Main Street Oakland County's annual Main Event in 2019, with Bret Rasegan, Oakland County Planning Division Manager assisting. Courtesy of Main Street Oakland County.

Main Street America is proud to recognize John Bry, Program Coordinator at Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) in Michigan, as the 2023 Mary Means Leadership Award recipient. This prestigious award is the organization’s top honor recognizing individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership in the field of comprehensive preservation-based economic development and commercial district revitalization. The award highlights the impact of these individuals and amplifies the critical role that leaders play in shaping the Main Street Movement.

Nominated by colleagues, and selected by a national jury, John is being recognized for his ability to develop innovative ideas, build organizational capacity of local programs and leaders, and lead through understanding as program coordinator.

“Main Street coordinators play vital roles as conveners, mentors, and advocates,” said Hannah White, Interim President and CEO at Main Street America. “And John Bry is exemplary in these roles and many more. John’s passion for historic preservation and ability to rally local leaders around the Main Street Approach have made a lasting impact on countless communities.”

John Bry (back row, left) at Curwood Castle for a meeting of Main Street Coordinators in Owosso, Michigan. Courtesy of Main Street Oakland County.

The Oakland County Economic Development staff nominated Bry for the award. The directors and downtown managers of Main Street Oakland County (MSOC), former colleagues, and faculty of Southeast Missouri State University submitted letters of support, all describing Bry’s ability to apply creative solutions to complex problems and bring together diverse stakeholders through shared visions.

At 19, John founded the Champaign County Preservation Alliance, Ohio’s first countywide preservation organization. After receiving degrees in historic preservation and conservation, Bry embarked on a career establishing, managing, and coordinating Main Street programs in Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Notable accomplishments include securing $600,000 of a $1.7 million commercial and public space project in Flora, Illinois; advising Kendallville, Indiana in securing a $2 million PreservINg Main Street grant to transform the community’s historic downtown; and providing guidance on the establishment of the Cape Girardeau Main Street program, which later earned a Great American Main Street Award and continues to be nationally and state Accredited.

Left: Main Street Oakland County at the 2022 Main Street Now Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Right: John Bry serves as tour guide at the 2022 Main Street Now Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Courtesy of Main Street Oakland County.

“John has always been on the forefront of what’s next for historic preservation and Main Street, providing the type of strategic thinking and leadership that helps transform people and communities,” writes Steven J. Hoffman, Ph.D., Professor of History & Anthropology at Southeast Missouri State University.

In his current role as Program Coordinator at Main Steet Oakland County, Bry has played a crucial role in growing the organization’s network of members from 19 to 28. This growth includes recruiting three communities that had previously left the program. Bry’s hands-on approach to providing guidance to communities can be seen in his work with Main Street Pontiac, where he assisted in transforming the board of directors to one that reflects the community, securing sponsorships to fund their business and façade grant program, and helping the organization establish better communication with city government.

“John is the most compassionate and dedicated community development champion that I know, and it is not surprising that he is being recognized with the prestigious Mary Means Leadership Award,” said Kristi Trevarrow, Executive Director at Rochester Downtown Development Authority in Michigan. “He is a staunch supporter of our Main Street Oakland County communities, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him for the betterment of our downtowns!”

Left: John Bry officiates the Main Street America Accreditation Ceremony for the Village of Lake Orion DDA, represented by executive director Molly LaLone and team. Center: Debris from the catastrophic Kentucky floods in 2022. Right: John Bry connected with community directors, board members, commissioners, elected and appointed officials, and supporters at the 2022 MSOC Main Street Summit. Courtesy of Main Street Oakland County.

Perhaps the most poignant example of Bry’s collaborative leadership is evidenced in his efforts to successfully change how MSOC engages with local programs from an, at times, prescriptive approach to one that is tailored to deliver services that are needed and wanted by the community. Bry also nurtures strong relationships among the program’s diverse programs and supports the professional development of local downtown managers through Main Street Now Conference scholarships.

“John’s respect of people, place history has transformed Oakland County’s Main Street program. He has refined all aspects of our county-level Coordinating Program around the unique political, social and economic context of each downtown,” says Bret Rasegan, Manager of Planning and Local Business Development at Oakland County Economic Development. “His ability to lead, find common ground and build consensus on actions provides the environment for success across Oakland County.”

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