IL Main Street Conference: 2021 Speakers



    Illinois Main Street
    Conference: Speakers

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Hear from Main Street and Industry Experts

We were thrilled to be joined by thoughtful and inspiring speakers at our conference. Below, explore our speaker line-up featuring experts in topics ranging from historic preservation, entrepreneurship, volunteer management, community engagement, heritage tourism, retail, organizational development, and more. Plus, be sure to explore our conference sessions.

Juliana Stratton, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois

Juliana Stratton is excited to serve the residents of Illinois as the state’s 48th Lieutenant Governor. In 2019, she shattered barriers when she was inaugurated as the first Black Lieutenant Governor and the first Black woman to serve as a constitutional officer in Illinois’ over 200-year history. She is highly qualified, dedicated and confident that the best solutions for the challenges we face in our communities are found when we tap into the wisdom that already exists within them.

In addition to spearheading the administration’s Justice, Equity, and Opportunity Initiative, Stratton also brings her visionary leadership to more than a dozen councils, commissions, boards and agencies as Chair or executive liaison.

Named by Chicago Magazine as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Chicago,” Stratton has been recognized by numerous organizations as an “Outstanding Legislator,” “Trailblazer and History Maker,” and “Woman of the Year” for her commitment to public service and social justice advocacy. She and her husband, Bryan, live in both Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and Springfield with their four daughters. Stratton loves the state of Illinois, the people of Illinois and doing the work that will make Illinois the best for the next generation.


Patrice Frey, President & CEO, Main Street America

Patrice Frey is President and CEO of Main Street America, where she oversees the Center’s work, offering technical assistance, research, advocacy, and education and training opportunities for Main Street’s network of approximately 1,800 members. Based in Chicago, Illinois, the National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has participated in the renewal of more than 2,000 older commercial districts during its 30-year history. Before joining the National Main Street Center in May 2013, Patrice serviced as the Director of Sustainability at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she oversaw the National Trust’s efforts to promote the reuse and greening of older and historic buildings, including research and policy development work through the Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab.


Norma Ramírez de Miess, Vice President of Revitalization Services, Main Street America

Norma Ramírez de Miess serves as the Vice President of Main Street America’s revitalization services, leading the delivery of technical assistance that helps communities build, grow, and sustain successful revitalization programs across the country. She offers over 20 years of direct leadership experience in downtown revitalization and nonprofit management and an inspiring passion for the value of Main Street in comprehensive community economic development.


Amy Meadows, Principal, Windows Matter

Amy is a retail industry veteran with 35 years' experience in creative problem solving, effective marketing strategies and project management for Window Display, Visual Merchandising, and Exhibition Design. She is an innovative, award-winning designer as well a skilled coach, and lecturer. Amy frequently presents at National Main Street Conferences, sharing actionable and affordable solutions for storefront and window enhancements for independent businesses and historic downtown districts.


Donna Ann Harris, Principal, Heritage Consulting, Inc.

Donna Ann Harris is the principal of Heritage Consulting Inc., a Philadelphia-based certified WBE consulting firm that works nationwide providing training, research, coaching and consulting services on historic preservation, audience development, volunteer management, heritage tourism, and organizational development issues for historic sites and downtown organizations.

Before she started her firm 16 years ago, Ms. Harris was state coordinator for the Illinois Main Street program for two years and the manager of the Illinois suburban Main Street program for four years. Donna is best known as a speaker and author on fundraising for downtown organization. Four of her six feature articles for Main Street Now, the Main Street blog and MASI webinars were on a fundraising topic, including BID creation, year-end appeals, fundraising events, membership campaigns, year-round sponsorship programs, and revenue diversification.

AltaMira Press published her book New Solutions for House Museums: Ensuring the Long-Term Preservation of America’s Historic Houses in 2007. This title has been the best seller for AltaMira Press since its publication. A second edition was published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers/AALSH in November 2020.


Jonathan McGee, Deputy Director of Regional Economic Development (RED), Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity

Bio coming soon!


Kyle Moore

For over two decades, Kyle Moore has devoted his life to improving the lives of residents in Quincy and Adams County. He began his career working for his family business, eventually becoming an owner and Vice President. While not working, Kyle would spend his time serving organizations like Big Brother/Big Sisters and the United Way of Adams County. In 2009, Kyle sought to serve his community in an elected capacity and was elected to the Quincy City Council.

Kyle was elected Mayor of the City of Quincy in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. During his tenure as Mayor, Kyle would develop many programs to enhance the economic climate of the region. To address the shortage in skilled workers, he launched the Quincy Promise, a privately funded college scholarship program. He worked with the District on the Downtown Rental Rehab Program, which formed public/private partnerships to renovate upper story buildings downtown into residential units. In 2018, he formed a bi-partisan group of elected officials and community groups to save the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, which resulted in the State of Illinois providing $230 million for a new campus. A year later, Kyle would offer the “45x30 Plan,” a comprehensive approach to grow Quincy’s population by investing in talent attraction and retention programs, increasing tourism and modernizing the city’s retail incentives.

Kyle was named President of the Great River Economic Development Foundation in 2021, he is only the third person to lead the organization. In his spare time, you can find Kyle rooting on his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers.


Lindsey Wallace, Director of Strategic Projects & Design Services, Main Street America

Lindsey has fifteen years of experience in historic preservation, community engagement, and project management. As Director of Strategic Projects and Design Services, Lindsey leads a variety of projects and partnerships, including the NPS Main Street Façade Improvement Grant Program, NPS Community Disaster Preparedness and Resilience Program, and the Historic Commercial District Revolving Loan Fund Program. She teaches the Advanced Principles of Quality Design course through the Main Street America Institute, and, as part of the field staff team, she focuses on design-related and placemaking initiatives and content. She received her M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and her B.A. in History from the Ohio State University. She currently serves on the board of the National Preservation Partners Network and as the Co-Chair of the Preservation Priorities Task Force Climate Change Working Group.


Norman Walzer, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs

Norman Walzer, Ph.D., is Professor and Director Emeritus, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, and recently retired after 12 years as Senior Research Scholar in the NIU Center for Governmental Studies. He has written extensively about local economic development issues and recently edited a scholar/practitioner book, Community Owned Businesses Around the World: International Development, Finance, and Entrepreneurship published by Routledge Press. He also published a Guidebook and Resources for Starting a Community Supported Enterprise published by the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Michigan State University. He has made numerous presentations in working with local groups on development issues.


Sean Park, M.S. Program Manager, The Value-Added Sustainable Development Center at Western Illinois University.

Sean Park, M.S., is Program Manager for the Value-Added Sustainable Development Center at Western Illinois University. He works with rural entrepreneurs, Cooperatives and Communities to develop business plans, find financing, and operate needed services successfully. He was the Economic Development Director for the City of Rushville Illinois from 2015 until 2019. Following his undergraduate degree in Economics from S.I.U.C. he opened Park Foods Inc. operating as a small grocery store in Rushville Illinois while earning a master’s degree in Economics from W.I.U. He is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor with the Exit planning Institute, a Certified Business Advisor with the State of Illinois Small Business Development Centers and is a doctoral student in Public Administration at University of Illinois - Springfield.


Bret Austin

Bret Austin is a property developer and owner of All Phase Property Solutions in Quincy, IL. As a developer Bret has worked on over fifty projects, both his own buildings and hired by others, renovating historic multi-use buildings in Quincy’s downtown district. Building renovations include external façade improvements, interior commercial and residential buildouts and other historic preservation consultations. All Phase Property Solutions is a multi-faceted business from property management and real estate agency to construction renovation and rentals, the business handles all real estate needs.

Bret's education and background is in civil and mechanical engineering. Prior to transitioning to All Phase Property Solutions, Bret was a partner of Austin Design Group, Inc., a design firm in the Lost Foam casting industry specializing in CAD/CAM and rapid prototype design, as well as consultation in the Lost Foam market, primarily producing prototype castings found in agricultural machinery.

Bret currently serves as the vice-chair and finance chair of the Adams County Board, is on the Adams County Together Task Force, Riverfront Steering Committee and has served on multiple community boards of directors, including as president of The District, Quincy’s downtown Main Street program.


Meghan Cole, Executive Director, Carbondale Main Street

Meghan Cole has been the Executive Director of Carbondale Main Street since 2007. Prior to that, while she earned her Bachelor’s at Millikin University, she worked with the Downtown Decatur Council in Decatur, Illinois. She is passionate about people, placemaking, and creating connections. She has been involved with Illinois Main Street programming since 2005.

In Carbondale, she has worked hand in hand with the City of Carbondale and other partners on many community-wide efforts, including programming for the 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse.

Originally from the Quad Cities area, she enjoys Southern Illinois with her husband, two sons, a tortoise named "Flash," and her dog, "Minnie Pearl."


Kayla Graven, Executive Director, Downtown Springfield, Inc.

Bio coming soon!


Abigail Powell, Director of Business Development, Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance

Bio coming soon!


Travis Brown, Tactical Projects Leader, Rokusek

Travis Brown is the Tactical Projects Leader at Rokusek. After graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a degree in Mass Communication, he began a successful career with the Boy Scouts of America. After 8 years he moved back to his hometown of Quincy, IL to become the Executive Director for the Historic Quincy Business District. Under Travis’ leadership, the organization grew membership by over 40%, increased revenue, strengthened community relations, went through a rebranding campaign and saw many advances in technology and innovation. In 2014, he joined the team at Rokusek where he works with downtowns across the country through various projects including Maestro Community Manager.


Erin Tighe, Educator, Lincoln Elementary School in Jacksonville, IL

Immediately after high school, Erin Tighe went on to graduate with honors from Illinois College with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a minor in English. She then earned her master’s degree in Educational Programs, Organizations, and Leadership from the University of Illinois and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Diversity and Equity in Education from UIUC also. The University chose Erin to join an overseas study team to France and her writing has been featured in national publications and scientific journals. She accomplished all this while working full time and raising her wonderful daughter. Now in her ninth year of teaching, she is currently instructing fifth graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Jacksonville and continues to produce some of the district’s highest improvement scores. An after-school coach and tutor, Erin also teaches Diversity and Equity Training programs to area police departments.


Nick Kalogeresis, Associate Principal, The Lakota Group

Nick is currently an Associate Principal with the Lakota Group, a planning, landscape architecture and urban design firm based in Chicago, Illinois. Nick's work at Lakota focuses on historic preservation planning, design guidelines, Main Street consultations, as well as community comprehensive plans and downtown and corridor plans. His current work includes the Statewide Preservation Plan for the Texas Historical Commission and a new preservation plan for Maui County, Hawaii. He recently completed historic preservation plans for Albany, New York; Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, Montana; Denton, Texas; and Sandpoint, Idaho. In 2017, Nick led a consultant team for the Yorkville (IL) Comprehensive Plan Update, recognized with a Daniel Burnham Award for Outstanding Comprehensive Plan by the Illinois Chapter of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association. In 2021, he led a similar effort for Libertyville (IL), a long-standing Main Street community.

Prior to joining Lakota, Nick worked for the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1998 to 2008, where he delivered consulting services to Main Street communities in Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, and Missouri. A Chicago native, Nick holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Elmhurst College (IL) and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Nick also serves as an adjunct lecturer in historic preservation planning both at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Ashley Sarver, Senior Urban Planner, Studio GWA

Ashley is a certified planner who is specializes in historic real estate finance, corridor planning, and envisioning new spaces in old buildings. Having led multiple clients through historic tax credit projects involving small and large buildings, Ashley has seen firsthand how the tax credits can make projects more feasible and main street communities more viable.

Ashley earned a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and did her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the President of I Bike Rockford, a board member of the Natural Land Institute, and a member of the American Planning Association.


Aaron Holverson, Senior Project Architect, Studio GWA

Aaron Holverson is a licensed architect who specializes in historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects. With a background in historic renovation, project management, and carpentry, Aaron uses his diverse experience and education to develop a holistic approach to each project. In addition to his work on the design side of the profession, Aaron spent many years on project sites as a carpenter and project manager.

Aaron has a Master of Architecture in traditional architecture and urbanism from Judson University, and an undergraduate degree in architecture from Judson University as well. He is proud to call Monroe, Wisconsin home, and serves on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission as well as Main Street Monroe.


Kennedy Smith, Principal, Community Land Use + Economics Group

Kennedy is one of the nation’s foremost experts on commercial district revitalization, downtown economics, and independent business development. Before co-founding the Community Land Use + Economics Group (CLUE Group) in 2004, Kennedy served for 14 years as the director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center. During her tenure the Main Street program was recognized as one of the most successful economic development programs in the US, generating more than $18 billion in new investment and stimulating development of 226,000 net new jobs and 56,000 new businesses and expanding to a nationwide network of 2,000 towns and cities.

Meet the Conference Speakers




2021 IMS Conference

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