BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After two years of tending the needs of past, present, and future business owners in Fort Madison’s Main Street District, Cassie Gilbert has stepped away and Denicia Wright has taken the handoff.
Wright was originally hired as the Fort Madison Partners office manager on May 17, but when Gilbert gave her notice in June, Partners staff looked to Wright to fill the position. Her first official day was Friday, July 6.
Wright and Gilbert were able to work together for a little over two weeks before Gilbert left the area.
“It was nice to have those two weeks, you don’t always get that,” Wright said. “Even though I was pulling double duty handling the office manager’s position and trying to learn Main Street. She taught me a lot about how Main Street Iowa works and the administrative part the goes with it. There is a lot of stuff we do where we have to work with the state.”
Main Street communities such as Fort Madison work under the watchful eye of the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Historical Preservation Trust, including a yearly certification process to allow them to continue to be called an Iowa Main Street Community.
But the time also allowed Wright a chance to get to familiarize herself with the business owners and operators in the district.
“She took me around and introduced me to a lot of the businesses and we had some very warm receptions. People were sorry to see Cassie go but they welcomed me with open arms,” Wright said.
Wright said she will have to take part in a Main Street Iowa orientation program in August where she will get acclimated with the state’s programming as well as getting to meet other Main Street community officials and staff.
Growing up in Kansas City, Wright moved to Fort Madison in 1990, but she said she fell in love with the town when she would come up for summer and winter breaks in school to stay with her grandmother. She currently lives in Fort Madison with her husband, Amos, and a son. The couple’s older daughter lives in Cedar Rapids.
“I loved the homey feeling. When I came to visit, it felt like home,” she said. “It was so small everyone knew everybody and everyone was nice and accommodating. When I became an adult, I wanted my daughter to grow up in that environment. I wanted my children to be able to experience that.”
For the past 15 years Wright has worked in Mt. Pleasant with Farm Credit Services of America where she was an Insurance account specialist for farmers with less than 800 acres.
She said she feels the customer service and people skills she obtained in that position will translate well into the Main Street program.
“I can say with my background I was able to develop people skills. The administrative piece I will learn,” she said. “I’ve never written a grant or anything like that, but I will get my feet under me quickly. But right now, I’m coming in at this from the customer service side of things.”
Main Street Board President Stephanie Knoch said she feels Wright will be able to pick up where Gilbert left off pretty seamlessly.
“We’re looking forward to exciting things from her,” Knoch said. “She’s been in the area and she’s familiar with the people and the businesses. I actually worked with her at the bank years ago so I know her and she’s already met quite a few business owners and made a good impression. We’re excited to see her continue Cassie’s success.”
Wright said her goal is to not just do “howdie-doodie” calls, but meet with business owners regularly with a purpose.
“I don’t want to be a nuisance to them. I want to make sure I take things to them that are important and have a purpose,” she said. “My goal is to get out on the street at least once a week and talk with the business owners.”
She said she’s looking forward to being a part of something with a bigger impact on the community.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of something big to make our town better,” she said. “We have a beautiful town now, but I want to be a part of keeping it going and continuing to make it better. There’s always room for improvement and I’m happy to bring my piece to the table to help that happen.”
Knoch said Gilbert was a great asset to Main Street.
“She made herself known to everyone. She helped get a lot of things accomplished and a lot of new businesses in town.”