NewTown president resigns after two months on job

Two months after becoming president of NewTown Macon, Heather Holder has resigned.

“Heather is a wonderful person and a very strong leader,” said Mike Ford, NewTown’s CEO. “She has great contacts at the state and national level, but NewTown is about local matters.”

The move marks a big change from just two months ago when Holder was promoted to president of the public-private organization after Ford’s duties as both president and CEO were split. At that time, Ford had planned to retire Oct. 1, but now he says he’ll stay as long as the board needs him.

“With things tough all over financially, we couldn’t afford (both),” Ford said. “It made more sense for me to continue, so she resigned.”

Citing a confidentiality agreement signed with NewTown’s board, Holder declined to comment Thursday about her Wednesday night resignation.

Holder was initially recruited to NewTown in large part because of her experience with the Main Street program in Milledgeville. With Macon and NewTown partnering to earn an Urban Main Street designation from the state’s Department of Community Affairs, Holder became the point person for the process.

The program was created by the National Trust For Historic Preservation and is used to help Main Street cities pool community resources and revitalize an area, such as downtown Macon. The designation can help a city attract businesses and apply for grants.

When Holder was promoted to president in March, Ford said at the time: “This is tied in with the city liking the Main Street program. (Macon officials) asked Heather to be the point person because she had implemented the program in Milledgeville.”

The program had proven successful in downtown Milledgeville, winning a state award and raising property values there by 39 percent.

Ford said Thursday that Macon and NewTown officials would have to meet about how to proceed with the Main Street program. The state granted Macon a two-year time period to explore the Main Street process and see if it will be the right fit for the city, said Laura Schofield, executive vice president for NewTown.

Ford said he hopes the city and NewTown will continue to work together on the project.

“Urban Main Street is a designation for the city,” he said. “We would like to continue to be the point (people) for that. But it’s the city’s decision how they want us to proceed.”

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said he hasn’t had an opportunity to discuss the status of the program with NewTown officials.

“Number one, I was disappointed that (Holder) left,” he said. “Number two, I don’t know how it affects the Main Street designation, and number three, from the city’s perspective, does it change things? Perhaps. I’ll have to talk with Mike Ford.”

Reichert, who was at Wednesday’s executive board meeting, said he understood the change comes from revenue shortfalls and NewTown’s need to cut expenses. Reichert said he is sorry to see Holder leave. “Not just because of her experience with Main Streets, but because she was making things happen downtown,” he said.

“She had a great record in Milledgeville.”

In addition to the Main Street program, Holder also helped introduce the City Watch program. It’s a Neighborhood Watch program comprised of downtown residents and businesses.

NewTown board of directors Chairman Thomas Wicker and incoming board Chairman Bill Underwood were both out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Ford said Holder and Lindsay Hornsby, a business development and accounts associate with NewTown who also resigned Wednesday, would continue to be available over the next few months to help with the transition.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.