New Main Street Lebanon exec director is eager to listen

Donna Cox estimates that 20 percent of her time is spent talking to the merchants. CONTRIBUTED
Donna Cox estimates that 20 percent of her time is spent talking to the merchants. CONTRIBUTED

‘I truly love my town,’ says Donna Cox.

Donna Cox is new to her executive director role with Main Street Lebanon. She assumed the position on June 26. However, she and her family aren’t newcomers to Lebanon. They’ve been a part of the community for more than 30 years.

Cox has also held other leadership roles within the community, including posts at Warren County Career Center and Warren County United Way. She’s a conversationalist, who is great at networking and she wants to make a difference through her work. Originally, she planned to retire in June of 2016, but she felt like this opportunity gave her a chance to use her talents to benefit the community.

“I truly love my town. It’s part of my mission to promote and preserve downtown Lebanon,” Cox said.

We talked to Donna more about her commitment to the community and some of the endeavors she’s working on at Main Street Lebanon. She brings years of leadership experience to the job and a strong connection to the community.

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Q: Tell us about your family.

A: I'm originally from Louisville, Ky. My husband and I have five children that we raised here, and we felt that it was a good fit for how we wanted to live our lives, and we liked the values that were available here, so that's why we stayed. My husband Tom served as an educator for more than 35 years. He retired from Bishop Fenwick. He also has a retirement job at Miami Valley Gaming. Our children are ages 22 to 27. Two of them are in the Air Force. My oldest daughter is Rachel, 27, is a Captain in the Air Force. She's a nurse, and she's stationed in Aviano, Italy. Justine, 23, serves as a Second Lieutenant. She's also a nurse, and is stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. I have a set of twin daughters, 25, Elizabeth and Jessica, who live in northern Kentucky. Elizabeth is an athletic trainer for Mercy Health, and Jessica manages a hair salon. My son, Anthony, is 22. He works locally in Lebanon.

Q: What does a typical day like for you?

A: A typical day might vary, but on Tuesdays, I try to schedule meetings with anyone, who has requested a meeting with me, whether it's related to advertising, or doing an interview, being on a television show or meeting with potential new members. On Wednesdays, generally, it's my business-member day. So, I walk around downtown. Twenty percent of my time is spent talking to the merchants.

Q: For those that aren’t familiar with Main Street Lebanon, can you provide us with a brief description?

A: Main Street Lebanon began in 2007, and it was really the culmination of an assessment to look at the needs of the central business district. Originally, we were known as Historic Downtown Lebanon, but we decided to go with a new name, recently, because we felt like was a better designation. We are part of a collaboration, which is offered by Heritage Ohio. They are a nonprofit organization, and they provide us with technical assistance, training and networking in all facets of downtown development based upon best practices. They designate us as an Ohio Main Street community. There are 38 other Ohio communities that are a part of it. Through that organization, we have an evaluation every year to renew our designation. Our goals overall are to protect and strengthen the tax base, obviously. We want to increase sales and return revenues to the community, and create a positive community image, encouraging folks to come in. As far as the buildings, we want visually appealing and functional buildings, but we're not going to build a sky scraper here. We want to attract new businesses, and new housing opportunities in the historic buildings downtown and new jobs. We love to have people come in and invest in downtown. We also want to preserve our historic resources, because Lebanon is so full of history. I could not do this job without the fabulous committees and volunteers we have. It isn't just a one-person job, or a one-person show. That's another benefit of having a such a great community, and people that want to help. We have a wonderful board of directors. Everything is directed to them, and that's who I report to is the board president.

Q: You’ve been in your role for only a short time. What are you most excited about?

A: I have a philosophy. When you get into a new organization, you have to do a lot of listening. I'm not one to come in and immediately start changing everything. I like to listen to the needs of our business members…My focus for the first six months to a year is to listen and learn. What I'm most excited about, though, is every day, I have fun in my job.

Q: Can you give us an example or two of how you plan to have fun?

A: It's funny. I probably drive through downtown Lebanon four or five times a day, and I have a new perspective on it now. When I drove through the other day, I thought, "Oh, those people got a new door." Because, I have to report all of those things, such as any facade or street changes, or connect with new businesses that come into town. I never noticed those things before, but now that I'm so in tune with the town, that I have a new perspective on it. I'm excited to see the changes, and I'm able to record those opportunities. It's also exciting to be such a vital part of our downtown Lebanon's development and promotion. I love meeting our downtown merchants.

Q: What are some of the things you bring to this position? Can you share a few of your strengths?

A: I have a proven ability to develop partnerships through networking. Also, to foster relationship building. I think that was recognized at my previous positions. Personally, I feel like my communication and public-speaking skills are very good. I can develop and deliver a presentation to an individual or a group of any size. We have a monthly, business forum, where we invite our members to come, and I've already received positive feedback from the two meetings I've hosted. Several of the attendees have said they enjoyed the upbeat and positive experience. I have an ability to build relationships and form lasting partnerships. The job is pretty independent, and I work well, independently.

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