Main Street Lebanon navigating leadership changes after council decision

Main Street Lebanon is navigating leadership changes after its executive director and board president/design chair resigned.

However, both former leaders say they support longtime business owner Sonya Staffan, who was selected as the new president during a special meeting on Aug. 26 after former president Adam Mathews resigned his post.

Staffan owns two local businesses, Jam & Jelly Lady and Oh Suzanna, a women’s apparel and gift shop. She could not be reached for comment.

Main Street Lebanon, made up of nearly 150 businesses and individuals, promotes Lebanon’s downtown business district through events and other activities. The board is accepting applications to fill the executive director position.

“I think she’ll do an amazing job.” said former executive director Alecia Lipton. “Main Street Lebanon is in excellent hands right now.”

Lipton submitted her letter of resignation on Aug. 20, citing “lack of support and shared vision from the Board President as to what is best for the merchants, combined with the irregular pay.”

At the time of the letter, the organization owed her for 12 weeks of work, but she has received most of the missing compensation, she said.

Lipton said in an email to area media that Mathews was not acting in the best interest of the merchants. She said she communicated concerns from visitors and merchants about how the new anti-abortion/sanctuary city for the unborn ordinance was impacting their businesses.

Lipton also spearheaded the organization’s anonymous survey of downtown business owners in July to gauge the effect of the controversial ordinance by comparing their sales this year after the council passed the abortion ban to the same three weeks in 2020 and 2019. The survey generated 38 responses reporting sales in June 2021 were lower than in 2020 and 2019.

Lipton questioned Mathews about having a conflict of interest serving on both city council and as Main Street board president and suggested he step down in June. He did not resign as there was no vice president to succeed him and the board did not want him to resign.

A vocal opponent to the ordinance that was unanimously adopted in late May, Lipton continues to speak out against similar legislation being considered by Mason City Council.

She is also one of a dozen candidates seeking one of four open seats on Lebanon City Council this fall. Lipton will continue to work as public information director for the Hoxworth Blood Center.

“I feel that I can better promote and help the merchants as well as the citizens of Lebanon by using my voice and talents serving them on council,” she said.

Mathews is also a member of Lebanon City Council who played a key role in the city’s passage of an anti-abortion/sanctuary city for the unborn legislation, which prohibits the establishment of abortion clinics or providing any assistance of any kind to a woman seeking an abortion. There are no abortion clinics or plans for a clinic in Lebanon.

He told the Dayton Daily News that when he accepted the board president post, “it was a one-year deal.” Mathews is considering a run for the Ohio House of Representatives and is waiting to see where the new district lines are drawn.

Mathews said the board was moving toward separating Lipton from the organization. He said it was not acted on out of concerns it would look political.

“It was not my decision,” Mathews said. “I took myself out of it.”

He said the decision to step down was meant to provide stability for the organization, and he remains a board member.

“Main Street Lebanon will continue to great things in the future,” he said. “I will be staying involved with Main Street Lebanon.”

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