Barb Smith, retiring executive director of the Kent Downtown Partnership, received the Washington State Main Street Program’s 2019 Leadership on Main Award.
“I was absolutely shocked,” Smith said of the award presented to her during a private party at the Main Street Now Conference in Seattle on Monday night. “I cried like a baby. I was very, very surprised.”
Kent is one of 34 Main Street communities in the state that participate in the program, which helps members revitalize the economy, appearance and image of their downtown commercial districts.
Main Street honored Smith for her leadership in improving the appearance of downtown, creating and honing its promotions, developing a solid fundraising strategy and successfully recruiting small businesses to the district, said Breanne Durham, Washington State Main Street Program coordinator.
“Barb’s greatest legacy in Kent is the team that she has developed, led and inspired over the years,” Durham said at the ceremony. “She has become a student of the Main Street approach and worked to educate the KDP board and volunteers about its merits. While she is integrally involved in all of KDP’s committees, she has mastered the skill of leading volunteers by empowering them to be creative, productive and focused on what inspires each of them to serve.
“Barb has emphasized partnerships in everything she has done for KDP – the great relationships the program has with the city, downtown business and property owners, volunteers and donors can all be credited to Barb’s relationship-oriented approach to community revitalization.”
Greg Haffner, KDP member, nominated Smith for the award.
“Barb has organized us, inspired us, motivated us and kept us focused on improving downtown Kent and preserving the history there,” Haffner said in a statement. “The pride within the organization reflects Barb’s leadership and is visible downtown.”
Smith, who has led the KDP for 10 years, officially steps away from her position July 31. The organization is interviewing candidates to succeed Smith.
Her greatest accomplishment?
“Relationship building … getting to know people, what their passions are,” Smith replied. “To ask, feel and see their passions for Kent … that’s extremely motivating for me. You don’t want to let these people down.”
In retirement, Smith plans to spend more time with family and friends and do some traveling.
“I’m not going to do anything right away, but just let it (the full-time work) go. It’s going to be a big shock to not work every day,” Smith said. “I don’t know what I will do, but I won’t sit still. That’s not me.