When downtown revitalizationist expert Michele Reeves gave her recommendations to the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, one was pretty straightforward: Get a permanent director to move your organization forward.

Alana Garner, 26, is the ADHDA’s answer.

After three years of paid interns, the downtown group hired Garner as its full-time, permanent executive director starting Aug. 19.

“Having a full-time staff person, it really helps create that consistency and continuity. You can work on more long-term projects,” said Garner, who moved to Astoria from her position in La Grande as downtown coordinator and an intern through Americorps’ Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program.

Now in her third week, Garner said she’s been meeting various business owners and other stakeholders around downtown Astoria, learning the lay of the land.

“I’ve been throwing myself into the Pacific Northwest Brew Cup planning,” said Garner, adding that revenues from the 13-year-old event, which the ADHDA started organizing last year, helped fund her position along with help from the city of Astoria.

She said the ADHDA is looking for volunteers for the event. Contact her at alana@astoriadowntown.com for more information.

Garner is also preparing for the 2013 Oregon Main Street Conference, which Astoria hosts Oct. 2 to 4. The event brings in experts from around the state to discuss preservation-based revitalization in rural, midsized, and urban communities. Registration for the event is at

http://2013mainstreetconference.eventbrite.com

The ADHDA is a member of the Oregon Main Street program, which provides assistance, training and technical services to communities that want to strengthen, preserve and revitalize a historic downtown commercial district.

Astoria is on the second of the program’s three levels of organization, “transforming downtown” using the Main Street approach, but needing more technical assistance to take it to the next level. Garner said that with her position, Astoria and the ADHDA are now eligible to join the top level of a “performing downtown,” opening more opportunities nationally and with the State Historic Preservation Office.

Garner said she’s only one part of a larger, multitiered ADHDA where everything comes full circle in the group’s volunteer committees. The nonprofit downtown group was founded in 1985 as an association of downtown business owners that includes an administration, board members and several committees that work on various projects.

“I kind of resonate with smaller communities,” said Garner, who grew up in rural Ivor, Va. “You can build more meaningful and personal relationships with what you do.”

She graduated in 2009 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., where she attended school with Blaire Buergler, the ADHDA’s RARE intern for two years. Both studied public and urban affairs.

“Blaire’s the one who got me out here,” said Garner about how Buergler inspired her to join Americorps’ RARE program and come to Oregon. “She was telling me what she did here, how much it applied to our degree.”

Finding directors

“We’ve been fortunate to have assistance from the RARE program for the past three years, but it’s not meant as a substitute for a long-term staffing solution,” said ADHDA President Dulcye Taylor, owner of Old Town Framing Co., about the hire. “We’ve been focused on the goal of permanent staffing for almost four years. This will ensure continuity and momentum for the future.”

In May of 2010, the ADHDA gained acceptance into the RARE program, beginning its three-year stint of intern directors.

First came Buergler, who helped build up the ADHDA and its programs. This past year, Rebecca Frick served as the ADHDA’s director, overseeing such projects as its first year managing the Brew Cup.

“It was a good experience for me to get an insight into the field of community development and economic development,” said Frick, who in the coming week will marry her fiancé, Zach Fund, an Americorps volunteer based in Seaside until April. After his internship ends, she said, they plan on moving to the Portland area, where she will look for a job related to more traditional urban planning.

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