Excellence on Main Award

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Russell Carlson

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2023

City: Selah

The Leadership on Main Award is an annual award that recognizes an individual who has shown extraordinary dedication to their local Main Street over a significant period of time. Russell Carlson has been named the recipient of the 2023 Leadership on Main Award for his longtime commitment to Selah.

Russ was appointed to Selah City Council eight years ago. As a city councilor, Russ has been able to help set policies and facilitate projects that make Selah a better place to live, start a business, and raise a family. Shortly after joining City Council, he asked to fill the vacant role as council liaison to the Selah Downtown Association (SDA) because he was drawn to the Main Street mission and wanted to help build a stronger relationship between the SDA and the city.

While his only responsibility as council liaison was to attend Selah Downtown Association board meetings, Russ went even further and joined all four of the board’s committees. Over the past seven years, he has maintained service on those committees, often the first to raise his hand to help. As a consistently reliable leader for the SDA, he shows up to help with the majority of downtown events, activities, and clean-up days. All told, Russ spends most of his waking hours giving back to his beloved Selah.

Russ cares deeply about his community and is always looking for ways to serve and lead. Selah is undoubtedly a better place thanks to Russ’ care and commitment.

Excellence on Main Award

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Mary DesMarais

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2022

City: Gig Harbor

The year was 2009, when Gig Harbor’s newly formed Main Street organization hired Mary DesMarais to take the con of what is now lovingly referred to as “The Alliance”. If you ask any of Mary’s fellow local directors today, they’ll tell you that Gig Harbor is known for having a director who really knows the ropes and a board that is chockablock with dedicated and professional volunteers. But it wasn’t always such smooth sailing for Mary and her crew. It’s been through tremendous perseverance, hard work, and dedication to relationship-building that The Alliance has earned the reputation as a safe harbor for the small businesses and partners that make up the historic downtown waterfront district.

To quote one of her peers, “Mary is a steady voice of reason, influence, and support.” It’s a truly daunting task to try to summarize the impact that someone like Mary can make on their community. We can learn a lot about Mary’s leadership style and the Alliance’s strength as an organization through how they navigated the uncharted waters of the pandemic. While most of the world was all at sea, Mary and crew leapt into action. They became champions for public safety, the consistent and reliable source for information, and the creative engine that kept programming alive downtown. Mary is deeply connected to and respectful of her small business community, so we all bore witness to her incredibly impactful response to their ever-changing needs.

Mary is a natural leader. She seems to effortlessly lift up and highlight the skills of others around her. She cares deeply about her people – her staff, her board and volunteers, her businesses. Mary is truly a captain whose crew matters to her above all else.

Excellence on Main Award

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Mari Mullen

Award: Leadership on Main

City: Port Townsend

In 2018, Mari Mullen celebrated her 20th year as Executive Director of the Port Townsend Main Street Program. With two decades of experience, Mari is the longest-standing Executive Director of a Main Street Community in Washington’s history. However, her claims to fame include much more than longevity alone.

As the director of a Main Street program, Mari is responsible for all aspects of the organization, from managing programs, volunteers, promotions and engagement, to serving as an advocate for the historic districts and downtown business community. Along with support from her board of directors, volunteers, and program coordinator Dawn Pierson, Mari has led the organization with abounding energy and determination over the last 20 years.

PTMSP is known statewide as a leader in successful promotions and business support programs. Among these are Merchant Coffee Talks, the creation or resuscitation of numerous special events such as Concerts on the Dock and the Uptown Street Fair, loan programs to support business and property owners, and disaster preparedness plans for buildings.

Mari is a tireless advocate for the historic business districts. The Port Townsend Main Street board credits Mari’s patient, positive, and never yielding leadership for the organization’s strong partnerships and standing in the community.

One example is currently visible on Water Street. With another major street project looming, the City approached PTMSP to help them proactively mitigate construction impacts. PTMSP stepped up to manage a widespread communication plan, including volunteer management and promotional initiatives to benefit the business district during construction.

Mari is known across the state for her Main Street know-how, dedication to preservation, and for the business leaders and successful promotions she has patiently cultivated over the years. Above all, we know Mari for her solutions-oriented attitude and her willingness to mentor others, traits that benefit all of us who know her.

Excellence on Main Award

John Baule

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2020

City: Yakima

For over a decade John Baule has worn so many hats and taken care of so many tasks, that he has become a beloved public face of downtown Yakima. If you aren’t a Downtown Association insider you may not know he hosts their annual Christmas party in his home every year (for which he prepares many delectable dishes), but you would certainly recognize him as the “Wrist Band Man” keeping the entrance to the Downtown Summer Nights concerts running smoothly.

Even before the Downtown Association of Yakima was formed, John was treasurer for a preceding downtown effort from its first day to its last. Once DAY was founded, John continued to serve as treasurer… and bookkeeper, payroll manager, budget planner, tax expert, and more! He quietly takes all this on himself, reliably putting in volunteer time every week.

In addition to his board leadership, John is active in DAY’s Organization Committee and as a consummate event volunteer. Aside from the gate at Downtown Summer Nights, you’ll see John doing double shifts selling scrip at festivals, checking IDs during Sip & Stroll, answering questions at the farmer’s market information booth, and is often seen hauling tents or weights at  – as DAY executive director Andrew Holt puts it – the tender age of 71. He is also a major player in DAY’s flower program, working diligently with staff in the selection and purchase of flowers, volunteering on planting day, and acting as the City liaison on the program.

John makes serving as an ambassador of DAY to city, public, and other stakeholders look easy, partly because he brings his credibility and knowledge of Yakima history from over 25 years he spent as executive director of the Yakima Valley Museum. Having John’s leadership on the DAY Board and Organization Committee is second only to having his corny humor and overriding sense of good will to brighten them.

By taking the lead in so many aspects of Downtown Association of Yakima’s work and giving so generously of his own expertise, John does what all good leaders do – he enables the rest of the DAY team to do more work more effectively in its mission to strengthen downtown.

Excellence on Main Award

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Barb Smith

Award: Leadership on Main

Year: 2019

City: Kent

A leader is someone who inspires others, who lifts others up and provides them with the direction, resources, and freedom to accomplish their goals and be part of the team. For these reasons, and many more, we are pleased to recognize Barb Smith with our 2019 Leadership on Main Award.

Barb was hired as the Executive Director of the Kent Downtown Partnership in May of 2009 and will be celebrating a successful ten years and a well-deserved retirement later this summer. Under her leadership, KDP has improved the appearance of downtown, created and honed its promotions, developed a solid fundraising strategy, and successfully recruited small businesses to the district.

While none of this is insignificant, if you ask me, Barb’s greatest legacy in Kent is the team that she has developed, led, and inspired over the years. She has become a student of the Main Street Approach and worked to educate the KDP board and volunteers about its merits. While she is integrally involved in all of KDP’s committees, she has mastered the art of leading volunteers by empowering them to be creative, productive, and focused on what inspires each of them to serve.

Barb has emphasized partnerships in everything she has done for KDP – the great relationships the program has with the city, downtown business and property owners, volunteers, and donors can all be credited to Barb’s relationship-oriented approach to community revitalization.

Barb loves to celebrate her people and their successes. She is quick to acknowledge the hard work of others and slow to take any credit for herself. It is this type of leadership that leaves a true legacy. KDP is an organization with many leaders, not just one – and each of them has risen to the occasion because they have been inspired by Barb.

As long-time volunteer Greg Haffner puts it, “Barb has organized us, inspired us, motivated us and kept us focused on improving Downtown Kent and preserving the history there. The pride within the organization reflects Barb’s leadership and is visible downtown.”