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Brian Wolken
Board of Directors selected to lead and serve
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A director and the board of directors has been established for Monticello Main Street Iowa program.

   Brian Wolken was hired on Sept. 16 to take on the role of director. Wolken has been involved with the initiative since its inception at the beginning for the year. Wolken was also a part of the Main Street Iowa efforts in 2019.

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   “We had a nice applicant pool,” commented MSI board member Lisa Folken. “It was a competitive process.”

   With five people on the hiring committee, MSI Board of Directors President Deb Bowman offered, “I was shocked at the numbers (of applicants). We had some really viable people, which was great.”

   Wolken will officially start on Nov. 1. His office will be based out of the new Innovation Lab on E. First Street, the same location the MSI committee has been meeting over the past several months. The director will put in about 32 hours a week.

   Those named to the BOD include: Bowman, president; Dr. Quinn Behrends, vice president; Abby Manternach, secretary; Karen Verhagen, treasurer; Staci Fritz, historian; Folken; Sheila Tjaden; Bobby Krum; Seth Ballou; Jacob Oswald; and Judy Tuetken.

   With 31 volunteers working with the initial MSI committee, 11 were selected out of those who showed interest and were willing to give of their time to being on the BOD.

   “We can have up to 15 members,” said Bowman.

   “They’ve been committed throughout the process,” Folken added.

   In relation to the hiring of a director and putting together a strong BOD, Folken said there is a lot of excitement out there.

   “We wanted someone who would hit the ground running,” she said of hiring Wolken.

   Some qualities they were looking for in the hiring process were experience with MSI, planning, and grant writing.

   “Someone who could jump into the initiative,” she added.

   Bowman had heard that MSI directors tend to only stick around for two to three years.

   “We anticipate Brian sticking around for a while,” she said.

   Both felt that Wolken had the passion for the position as well.

   “He put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this,” commented Folken.

   She also shared a personal statement Wolken shared during the hiring… As for why he got involved, he offered, “I’m excited to build something great for my kids so they don’t have to leave Monticello. I want to leave Monticello better than I found it.”

   “He’s connected to the town and has the ability to listen and hear from people,” added Bowman.

   The BOD and Wolken have several training opportunities coming up before they can hit the ground running.

   “We’ve been at this for eight to nine months now,” recalled Folken. “There’s a formal process to this. We have to establish our roles.”

   They also have to secure their 501(c)(3) non-profit designation and have their by-laws in place.

   “The BOD has to be solid and committed,” said Bowman.

   The director’s role will involve communicating with the public, organizing, and accountability, not to mention strategic planning, and assisting the BOD.

   Wolken said he simply fell in love with MSI as the application process evolved. He could picture the vision and impact for Monticello.

   “I learned that the process of revitalization is incremental and I want to help lead Monticello Main Street through that process,” said Wolken. “As I attended trainings and visited other communities, I realized that I was with like-minded people and I wanted to continue in that direction.”

   Particularly, Joe Jennison from Mount Vernon Main Street, provided Wolken with valuable guidance and information.

   Wolken has been mayor of Monticello and served on the Economic Development board. He’s built relationships over the years that will surely be an asset in his new role.

   He’s looking forward to working with the downtown businesses and building owners, as well the MSI BOD, and the community as a whole in identifying projects within the district.

   “The MSI approach allows each community to utilize the tools and resources differently,” he explained. “Finding out what is needed and wanted in the district and then creating a road map to get there is a challenge I can’t wait to get started on.”

   There are four pillars to the Main Street program: Economic Vitality, Organization, Promotion, and Design. As things move forward, additional volunteers will be asked to serve on those committees.

   “I’m really excited to be a part of the change and can’t wait to get to work,” Wolken said.

   To keep up on the latest with Monticello MSI, be sure to follow their Facebook page: “Monticello, IA Main Street.”

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