By Erika Webb
Just in time for MainStreet DeLand's hottest annual event -- Tropical Nights -- D. Wayne Carter will take over as the association's executive director.
Mr. Carter will fill the position vacated by Mary Beth Harris, who is relocating to southwest Florida.
Savannah-Jane Griffin, MainStreet DeLand Association Executive Board President, said Mr. Carter stood out among the 12 candidates the board considered because of his experience with another Florida MainStreet association.
As Eustis Main Street's executive director for the past seven years, Mr. Carter originated several successful events similar to those widely attended in downtown DeLand, including the Lake Eustis Fine Wine Festival, Lake County Folk Festival and Uniquely Eustis -- a popular festivity showcasing area restaurants and "culinary personalities." Uniquely Eustis also featured strolling musicians and a silent auction of unique items donated by community supporters of Eustis Main Street Inc.
"That experience and all the events that have been successful ... that's what we do at Main Street," Ms. Griffin said.
Mr. Carter has worked extensively with the Florida Main Street program, participating in state and national conferences alongside MainStreet DeLand's board members and affiliates.
"We participate in those conferences, have quarterly meetings and share best practices," Ms. Griffin said.
Additionally, she said, Mr. Carter has a working understanding of behind-the-scenes event operations, such as street-closings and obtaining insurance.
"He knows how to handle an event and all of the various responsibilities an executive director has to manage," said Susie Macon, a downtown DeLand resident, former business owner and long-time MainStreet supporter.
She is pleased with the committee's selection.
"I have known Wayne for several years and have been in a lot of quarterly meetings of the state Main Street Association with him ... and also the state Main Street Annual Meeting," Ms. Macon said. "He did a wonderful job as executive director of the Eustis Main Street program and accomplished many great things in their downtown."
Last August, Eustis Main Street was named Florida Main Street Program of the Month for its participation in the Florida Main Street program.
"Eustis is a great example of what can be accomplished when hard working citizens are committed to the betterment of their community," said Secretary of State Ken Detzner in a statement issued with the designation. "Eustis Main Street has been successful because they are committed to preserving local history while preparing for an exciting future."
It wasn't lack of preparation, rather budget cuts in Community Redevelopment Area funding which forced Eustis Main Street to close recently, according to a DeLand Mainstreet Association news release.
"I knew that the Eustis program was being eliminated and was very pleased that he applied for the DeLand position. I feel sure he will be able to step right in and do great things for DeLand," Ms. Macon said.
Ms. Griffin said Mr. Carter's leadership experience, creativity and commitment to DeLand's future are just what MainStreet ordered.
"Something very important to our organization is membership and he brought some good ideas about recruiting and retaining members," Ms. Griffin said.
Mr. Carter's experience as a Certified Financial Planner also will aid him in a position where every penny is spent in an effort to help area merchants grow their businesses, according to the release.
Martha Ashley, owner of Wolfe Gallery, said she is excited the board chose someone with direct Main Street experience.
"I never dreamed of that when I thought about a new director," Ms. Ashley said. "A lot of enthusiasm is always good and (the new director) needs to be someone who is ready to hit the ground running because we have so much going on here now."
She credits past directors and her fellow merchants with creating "so many fabulous events."
"And now we need somebody who will carry those forward as well as bring his own ideas to the table," Ms. Ashley said.
Ms. Griffin said along with his credentials, Mr. Carter's eagerness spoke volumes.
"During the interviews and out of all the times I've spoken to him, he seems very genuine," Ms. Griffin said. "He loves DeLand and is very excited to be in this position. He said at Eustis he would always strive to be like DeLand."
Mr. Carter's first day on the job will be July 1. He was unavailable for comment.