A Winning Pair Depart Positions: Downtown Partnership, Chamber Seeking New Executive Directors

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2015

FARMVILLE — Two key town organizations are losing their executive directors.

The Farmville Downtown Partnership and the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce are gearing up to find successors for Helen Person and Lisa Tharpe, respectively.

There was nothing but praise and good wishes for both leaders, as colleagues reflected on their contributions to their organizations and the wider community.

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Person has accepted the position of Community Revitalization Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. She’ll be working with Main Street programs across the commonwealth.

Farmville Downtown Partnership President, John Miller, reflected on the organization’s very first meeting, saying “we were very aspirational about what we wanted to do and Helen came in and helped make it a reality, in terms of getting us accredited with the Main Street organization, getting us accredited with the state, and pulling together our collective ambitions and talents and really helping organize that so that we’ve been able to accomplish the achievements that we have thus far.”

Organization, Person said, is her strong suit.

“My skill set is really very strong in helping to get organized, to try to help build a program, and by going with the state I’ll be able to do that all over,” she said. “We have some programs (statewide) that could use a little bit of help; we have some folks that are trying to get started and it seems like a really good fit for what it is that I do.”

Miller said the partnership will “definitely” do a national search for Person’s successor. The search committee will be chaired by former Moton Museum executive director, Lacy Ward, Jr., “because of his experience as director of a non-profit,” Miller said. “He has a lot of situational awareness about, not just what we need, but what the town and the region needs.”

The Farmville Downtown Partnership, he said, is seeking the “best-qualified and best person for the position…We’re going to cast a pretty wide net to find the most talented person.”

The organization hates to lose Person, who, Miller said, “did a heckuva job.” But he acknowledges that the state position is one “I think she’s going to be very successful in…I’m happy for her.”

Person has no worries about the partnership’s future.

“Farmville Downtown Partnership is in good hands. They’ve laid a very solid foundation for building for the future…” she said.

Until a replacement is found, Miller said, Person “will be helping us out to complete some of our high-profile projects.”

The biggest of those is the Third and Main feasibility study to determine the best use for the former bank buildings on two of that busy intersection’s corners.

And Person has received permission from the state to volunteer with her hometown Farmville Downtown Partnership.

“We are staying in Farmville. This is our home. We’ve adopted Farmville as our home,” she said. “I’ll still be helping out, this my hometown too, so I want to do whatever I can do to be able to help things get stronger…”

Person’s last day on the job was Friday; her first day with the state is next Tuesday.

Tharpe Praised

Kudos were likewise quick in coming for Tharpe.

“Lisa’s just done a fabulous job,” chamber Executive Committee Chair, Kerry Mossler said, “so I can’t blame her for leaving. She wants to be home with her (children) and I can’t blame her for that. But I appreciate all she’s done. She’s been a fantastic chamber director. Hopefully we can find somebody to fill those big shoes.”

Tharpe said it “was truly a bittersweet decision to step down…I’ve absolutely loved getting to know so many businesses and people better, but I simply need to spend more time with my children and family.”

The chamber, she noted, “is in a very strong place now, not only in membership but also financially and in community support.”

Immediate Past-Chair L. Rucker Snead was also effusive in his praise for her leadership.

“Lisa has done a tremendous job with the chamber over the past two-and-a-half years, first as Interim Director and then as our Executive Director,” Snead said. “Lisa answered a ‘call’ to serve as the Interim Director in December of 2013 as the chamber was working through some extremely challenging times.

“Since then the impact of her energy and commitment to our community has been phenomenal. Under her enthusiastic leadership she has grown our membership from about 215 members to approximately 300 members today.”

Snead said Tharpe “has energized our monthly luncheons by bringing in a number of outside and excellent speakers. As a result, the average attendance at our luncheon meetings has grown from 45 to 80 participants.”

Citing her collaborative work with other organizations and entities, he said, “we will miss her dynamic leadership…but we know that she is not leaving the chamber or our community.”

Like Mossler, Snead embraces Tharpe’s reason for stepping down.

“We, the members of the Board, fully understand and support her decision to be able to spend more time with her family and children during their teenage years.”

Like Person, Tharpe will remain very much in touch with the organization she led.

“I remain as a chamber member and supporter,” she said, pointing out that she serves on four board of directors’ seats in the region “and plan to stay very involved in strengthening our community. My family will live here for a very long time, so it behooves me to help make it the best place possible to reside.”

Saying she is “happy with the vision the chamber has for growth,” Tharpe is confident the organization will find “the perfect person to take over as the new executive director.”

Her six-weeks notice, she said, keeps her in place until mid-June.

“I truly appreciate the freedom the board gave me to run and grow the chamber as I saw appropriate,” she said. “I consider them all close friends.”