Mary Means Leadership Award

Mary Means Leadership Award

Recognizing and celebrating outstanding leaders across the Main Street America Network.


Celebrating Outstanding Leaders

Since its founding, the Main Street program’s success has depended upon the vision and determination of leaders committed to community transformation. To celebrate these directors and recognize the outstanding leadership of the Main Street program’s own founder, Main Street America introduced the Mary Means Leadership Award in 2019.

Announced annually at the Main Street Now Conference, the award is a celebration of outstanding leadership and highlights the critical role that leaders play in shaping the Main Street movement.

In 2020, the leadership characteristics required to help Main Streets weather the storm have come into even sharper relief.  More than ever, Main Streeters are being charged to do more with less, to deepen engagement in new ways, to motivate their teams through difficult times, and to dig deep to define what it really means to be a leader.

New this year, the Mary Means Leadership Award nomination process is open call to any and all staff or volunteer leaders at local Main Street or UrbanMain organizations and Coordinating Programs.

Nominations are now open and due on Feb 15! See below for details.



Nominee must be currently employed by or volunteer (including Board Members) with a local Main Street program, UrbanMain program, or Coordinating Program. Applicants must have an active Main Street America membership.

Applicants will be asked how the nominee:

  • Builds local capacity
  • Leads through strategy
  • Brings together diverse stakeholders through shared vision
  • Demonstrates commitment to continuous learning
  • Advances a preservation ethic in their work
  • Exhibits innovation and ingenuity

Supplemental Materials: Letters of Support from local stakeholders, including Board, local officials, district business/property owners, residents, etc.)

Selection Process

We are soliciting nominations for the Mary Means Leadership Award through February 15. You can submit a nomination for someone else or submit a nomination for yourself.

Winners will be selected by a jury including Mary Means, past years' winners, Main Street coordinators, and Main Street America board members and staff.


The winner will be announced at the virtual Opening Plenary of Main Street Now on April 12.

The winner will receive $1,000 professional development stipend for the Main Street America Institute and a $500 professional development travel stipend, an invitation to the VIP reception at the next in-person conference, a press release for local media, and a special feature on the MSA blog and the next issue of State of Main.

Past Recipients

Sharon Jablonski

Sharon Jablonski, the Director of Morganton Main Street in Morganton, North Carolina, is the inaugural recipient of the Mary Means Leadership Award. In her 30-year tenure as Director of Morganton Main Street, Sharon’s forward-thinking approach has turned downtown into a thriving entertainment district with a lively arts scene and strong local economy. This all is a direct result of Sharon's vision and leadership to make downtown a creative space for visitors.
“A Main Street program’s success depends on the commitment and vision of local Main Street directors,” said the National Main Street Center’s President and CEO Patrice Frey. “The transformation Sharon has led in Morganton has been remarkable, and her longstanding commitment to fostering community engagement, developing partnerships, and spearheading innovative development downtown is a model for strong Main Street leadership.”