Three Rivers DDA nears decision on new director
THREE RIVERS — The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority could have a new executive director as early as next week.
Over the last two weeks, the DDA board interviewed three potential candidates for the position, with two finalists selected for interviews: Cameron Mains and Jacob Young. Mains had his second interview before the board Thursday, with Young’s interview, originally scheduled as well for Thursday, to be rescheduled for next week due to Young being on vacation. The third original candidate was Betty Kerley, formerly of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce.
Mains, the current Operations Manager at GG’s Cookies in Three Rivers, is a graduate of Three Rivers High School and is planning on finishing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Central Michigan University in December, with a focus in hospitality services. According to his resume, he has also previously worked as a recreation supervisor at Mission Point Resort in Mackinac Island, and at CMU was the president of the Hospitality and Tourism Association, committee chair for Student Government special events, and helped with family and alumni relations at the university’s Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. He has also been on the DDA’s promotions committee.
Young recently moved to Three Rivers from Chicago in 2020, and was most recently the Senior Director at C+R Research in Chicago for nearly 23 years. According to his resume, he has community organization experience, in particular the Jackson Park Advisory Council for the Chicago Parks District, and has been a part of the Michigan Clean Water Corps and the Friends of the Forest Preserves in Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa as a political science and communications double major.
In his first interview last week before the board, Mains said he was interested in seeing downtown Three Rivers grow in the future.
“Being in the bakery and Lowry’s Books every day, I see the growth that’s coming to Three Rivers and downtown. More specifically, I see all these new organizations coming in, and I want to be a part of that,” Mains said.
Mains said of the four pillars of the Main Street program, economic vitality is the most important to the “overarching goal” of the executive director position.
“I think economic growth around downtown reverberates throughout the rest of the city,” Mains said.
When asked about his experience with fundraising and grant writing, he said he helped write a grant in the last few months for GG’s Cookies to receive a technology grant, and recalled a number of stories of fundraising and philanthropy he did while with Alpha Sigma Phi. As far as budgeting and financing, Mains said he had a “learning curve” with it going from living in Three Rivers to Mount Pleasant, but got a clear example when he was with the Hospitality and Tourism Association at CMU.
“Every year, we had a budget as a registered student organization, I had to help organize that budget and if the budget wasn’t enough, I’d also have to go out and speak out on behalf of the organization to get more for us,” Mains said.
Near the end of the interview, Mains said he should be hired because he has “a lot of stake in the community,” being from the area and returning to the area from college.
“I left and I learned a lot, but I also learned I want to come back. I learned that I want to make sure that Three Rivers is successful and that it’s somewhere that people know about,” Mains said. “I want to be a part and use the skills I went and learned to further that.”
In his first interview before the board, Young said what attracted him to Three Rivers was the “smaller town feel” of the town and the access to nature. He said he’s trying to get more involved with the community, and said the city has great potential.
“We saw downtown improving visually, and then the pandemic hit, and it was like, here’s the pause button, so that was kind of a bummer. It feels like things want to come back, and so that interests me. I’ve always taken pride in where I lived, I always have, and this is home,” Young said. “Knowing the potential for the town itself, I believe in it. Seeing vacant storefronts, I don’t like to see that anywhere. I know all that’s possible, but it’s getting people to believe in it, buy in, contribute and volunteer.”
Young said he doesn’t have direct experience with the Main Street model for downtowns and had “done a little reading,” but said promotions was the biggest of the four Main Street pillars. He later said there would be a lot of things downtown could add to make it better, saying the “opportunity is high.”
“I see a lot of people talking about things for the youth, programming and things to get kids doing stuff,” Young said. “A computer lab to teach them coding, an art center, a community center that does that kind of thing. I’ve seen a lot of need from parents looking to do something fun, creative and engaging for their kids. Figuring out something for kids and families is important, because if you get them to come downtown, maybe the kids go to an art class for an afternoon, the parents could go shopping or get a meal, spend some money, and pick up their kid.”
Young said it had also “been a while” since he’s done fundraising, adding that he had done “light fundraising” for Jackson Park, and as for grants, he said the Chicago Park District did the majority of the work with that when he was on the Jackson Park Advisory Council, but said he would be willing to learn about grant writing. As for budgeting and financing, he said he has worked with plenty of project-based budgets at his job over the years.
“At work, my budgets were project-based, so we would have a project, it had to come in at this, this and this, and we would actively be checking our budget as we go along,” Young said. “Every day I had to manage budgets for my job, but on a project level.”
Overall, Young said he should be hired because he is interested in representing Three Rivers and seeing the city go on an “upward trend.”
“I’d like to be a continued part of that growth. I think it’s an exciting time to be here and an exciting time to be in smaller communities in general. There’s been a big trend of people de-citying and getting into smaller, closer-knit communities, which is interesting to me,” Young said. “I think I would be able to fit in and understand the needs of what you’re trying to do for the DDA while trying to understand the needs of the surrounding community and make it happen.”
The board is expected to call a special meeting sometime next week for Young’s second interview, with the board possibly making a decision on their new director at that time.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.