Courtney Washburn begins Main Street job by listening to stakeholders

John Thompson • Updated Oct 9, 2019 at 12:24 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Courtney Washburn has done a lot of listening during her first two days in her new job.

Washburn is the director of the new Main Street program for downtown Elizabethton. It is a new program for the city and there are a lot of hopes that it will help to invigorate downtown Elizabethton.

While Washburn also hopes the program can provide assistance in improving downtown, she believes the solution is with the downtown business owners and other stakeholders in the downtown, She hopes the knowledge she is gleaning from her listening sessions can be put to use when it comes time for strategic planning.

“I want to meet with the key players,” Washburn said. Those meetings began during her first day on the job, when she and her boss, Elizabethton Planning Director Jon Hartman, paid calls at downtown businesses and chatted about what was needed to make downtown better. The meetings continued on Tuesday.

Her listening won’t stop after those two days. She also has an initial membership meeting scheduled for Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Coffee Company. The meeting is being held in order to begin the formation of the new Main Street Program.

The meeting will be open to anyone who wishes to become a member of the Main Street Elizabethton organization.

The priority of the new board and director will be to obtain accreditation with the Main Street America organization so the Elizabethton chapter will be recognized by the state and national organizations.

Washburn is a native Tennessean, but she comes from the opposite end of the state, at Memphis. But she has come to know much of East Tennessee very well, including living in Chattanooga and Knoxville. She also has lived in Alabama for five years.

“The only one of Tennessee’s big cities I haven’t lived in is Nashville,” Washburn said.

She is a graduate of Maryville College and received her master’s degree in strategic communication from Westminster College in Utah.

She is also familiar with Johnson City and has worked as a volunteer for the Johnson City Development Agency. She lived in the Tree Streets and did volunteer work with the Southside Neighborhood Association.

Prior to coming to Elizabethton, Washburn was employed by Tusculum University, where she served as assistant director for the Center for Civic Advancement. While she held the title of assistant director, she said there was no one in the position of director. Because of previous experience in recycling at institutions of higher learning, Washburn was also in charge of recycling at Tusculum.

While Washburn is an employee of the city, the Main Street program will work with downtown merchants and other stakeholders. Part of its funding will be from membership fees.

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