COVINGTON, Ga. - With a week under her belt in Covington, new Main Street Director Lauren Singleton is excited by what she has seen so far with the downtown merchants and community.
The Covington News sat down with Singleton Friday morning to discuss her first week on the job and her plans for the future of Covington’s Main Street program.
The News: What have you seen in Covington so far that gets you excited or you’re ready to get started on?
Singleton: The merchants. I’ve already been going around talking to a lot of the merchants, meeting them. The stores are just amazing, the restaurants are just amazing. There’s such a variety. I’ve never seen such an interesting variety of merchants in downtown before.
I actually grew up in Coweta County and so I would always go to downtown Newnan and visit their stores and go to their events so I kind of grew up in the downtown world, I guess you could say. After working in McDonough, I mean, I think that the mix of merchants and businesses around downtown really are top-notch.
The merchants themselves, the business owners, they’re very committed to their businesses. They’re very invested in their businesses. That’s very commendable because, you know, in a lot of cities you have a lot of absent business owners and it is very difficult to get them on board with different things going on downtown, but to actually go into a store and be able to talk to the business owner, it’s very refreshing.
That was my priority when I got here, I just want to get to know the merchants and just get to know them not only as business owners, but as people because we’re all in this together.
The News: What are you plans going forward in your first 30 days on the job?
Singleton: The first 30 days is communication. I really want to amp up not only communication with the merchants, but communication with the public.
I have a huge social media background, so this week I’ve really started to work on that to amp up the social media because I want the Main Street social media to not only be events, but I really want it to showcase the merchants as well. Every time I walk around the square, I want the merchants to say ‘Hey, I’ve got this sale going on, can you put it on your Facebook page?’ You know, I want them to see the Main Street social media as another avenue of advertisement.
Another way of communicating is email-blasting, just really use that as a tool to send out to the public and to the merchants so everybody knows what’s going on, what’s coming up.Communication I feel is really, really key.
Another thing I want to do in the first 30 days is education. That does go along with communication a little bit. But, education about what’s in downtown, education about the history of downtown. I’m sure people have lived here for years and years and think they know everything, but I’m going to make it a goal to find something people really didn’t know about. So, I really want to go deep into the history of Covington.
Part of the Main Street program is historical preservation, so I really want to bring that aspect to the forefront.
The News: With the big 4th of July event just around the corner, what are you doing to get ready and get downtown ready for that event?
Singleton: We have a great intern here who is a public relations intern from Valdosta State University. She’s a Covington native, but she goes to Valdosta State. She started a couple weeks before me, so she’s been really helping me get the word out because we’ve been doing some Google searches online and we would type in ‘Stars and Stripes Fest’ or ‘4th of July Covington’ and other than Facebook and our website, we really don’t see anything.
That’s something I’ve put on our intern, I really want to see 30,000 people here in a month and we really need to get that going because we have a month. I’ve kind of made it my mission to get the people here.
As far as the rest of the planning for the 4th of July, Debbie Harper, who served as the interim Main Street Director, has been doing a great job. She’s pretty much got it covered, I really don’t want to mess up her flow.
I really just want to get the people here and once they’re here, we’ll let Debbie handle them.
The News: What are some of the biggest challenges you think you’re going to face moving forward in Covington?
Singleton: I haven’t really thought about that. I really haven’t because I’ve just been so focused on getting acclimated and meet the merchants.
From talking to the merchants, I have heard about the challenges of parking, but I see parking as good problem, that means you have people coming to the square.
Right now, I just don’t see a lot of challenges, but then again it is still my first week. Ask me again in six months and I’ll let you know.
The News: What brought you to Covington?
Singleton: I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half in Tallahassee, Florida. I was working in the city manager’s office for the City of Tallahassee and it was time to come home. I had gone through a hurricane, a couple tropical storms, it was just time to come home and I missed being part of Main Street. I missed being able to contribute to the community.
Yes, being in Tallahassee, I was still a part of city government and I was still doing things, but in the position I was in, I wasn’t really able to accomplish things and really contribute anything to the City of Tallahassee. So, when Covington posted the position I applied.
I knew a little about Covington beforehand because when I was in McDonough we would come to Covington for trainings or we would go through Covington on the way to trainings. I was familiar with Covington and the layout.
Of course, with ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ if you’re from Georgia you know Covington and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ are synonymous.
The layout is similar to McDonough, so I had a feeling that if I got the job it was going to be an easy transition for me, just put that Main Street hat back on and keep on truckin’.
The News: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your time here or what you have going on moving forward?
Singleton: Moving forward, I want to bring as much activity to downtown as possible. Activity doesn’t normally mean events. Just, people and foot traffic. I do try to keep the merchants best interests in heart. What’s going to bring people in the doors? What’s going to get people to buy things from them? I always try to keep the merchants in mind because after all if the merchants weren’t here, we wouldn’t have downtown so they’re my number one concern.