Swisher leaves Mainstreet Piqua after 26 years


By Sheryl Roadcap

[email protected]

PIQUA — It’s the end of an era in downtown Piqua, as Lorna Swisher, executive director of Mainstreet Piqua, is leaving the organization to pursue a new, “exciting opportunity” at Heritage Ohio. Her last day with Mainstreet Piqua is Friday, Oct. 6.

Mainstreet Piqua is a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization and promotion of downtown Piqua. The organization strives to create a vibrant and thriving downtown area that supports local businesses, fosters cultural enrichment, and enhances the overall quality of life for Piqua residents, according to a Mainstreet Piqua press release.

Heritage Ohio describes itself as Ohio’s official historic preservation and Main Street organization. According to its website, the organization aims to foster economic development and sustainability through preservation of historic buildings, revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts, and promotion of cultural tourism.

“I am very excited. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to help other Main Street directors and other programs,” Swisher said of her new role at Heritage Ohio to mentor and provide guidance or technical assistance to Ohio Main Street/downtown organizations. “The organization is in good shape and I am excited that the next director will bring fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and all that kind of stuff. So, I’m optimistic!”

Swisher, of Tipp City, has held the reigns of Mainstreet Piqua for the last 26 years, taking over as executive director in 1997. She has seen many changes in the downtown over the years including working with six Piqua city managers. She has seen other changes from business owners building their brands and witnessing their children grow up, to businesses moving out of the downtown area and across town to the mall, to their return to the quaint ambience of the interactive downtown, as well as the rise of the farmer’s market and other various annual programs held downtown throughout the year become successful.

“It’s been pretty monumental changes in the downtown,” Swisher said. “The habit of coming to the downtown had been broken, because of malls and so forth, but bringing people into the downtown in this unique environment to experience an event is formative. Kids remember the first time they saw a horse go down Main Street for a horse parade, or when they waved at Santa on the fire truck. But what I love, is that every single event that we do, we try to make it slightly different … how do we make downtown a place that you want to come back to.”

When asked about her favorite program — the Downtown Piqua Holiday Horse Parade, perhaps, the Down a River, Down a Beer event or maybe the farmer’s market? — Swisher quickly said, “It’s hard to pick a favorite. Don’t ask me to pick my favorite child; they are all my favorite.”

But she confessed she is probably most proud of the Piqua Community Farmers Market, which runs from June through the end of September.

“We pretty much started out in a parking lot, and the environment that has been created and everything at the farmer’s market, I love it, and love everything about it,” said Swisher. “It’s huge. And what I also love about it, is it’s for everybody. We have incentive programs so that those who are less fortunate in our community can participate. People walk from the neighborhoods in the area and come to the event. It’s kind of a smorgasbord of all kinds of people, and I love that.”

Mainstreet Piqua Chair of the Board Paul Heintz Jr., Ph.D., who is also Edison State Community dean of arts and sciences, said of Swisher, “Lorna Swisher is one of the most dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic, and talented individuals that I know. The experience and expertise that she has gained over the past 26 years as executive director has certainly contributed to the current success of Mainstreet Piqua.

“Lorna has built so many business and personal relationships in Piqua. These bonds have served downtown businesses, had a positive effect on the Piqua community, and have permanently woven Lorna into the fabric of the city of Piqua.

“The board will truly miss having Lorna as executive director, but we are excited to see Lorna use her talents to help other Ohio communities,” he concluded.

Piqua Mayor Cindy Pearson and the Piqua City Commission recognized Swisher for her years of dedication by honoring her with a proclamation at the Tuesday, Oct. 3, City Commission meeting.

The proclamation began by saying, “Whereas, for over 26 years, Lorna Swisher has served Mainstreet Piqua as a hardworking and enthusiastic director. And whereas, Lorna has also shown a deep commitment to our city, the city of Piqua, and its residents …” before going into detail about the numerous annual events Mainstreet Piqua holds throughout the year.

Pearson said, “Under her leadership Mainstreet Piqua has become known as a successful program that many other cities have respected and duplicated, and her professionalism and passion for the city of Piqua and the revival of our downtown will continue as a testament to her outstanding leadership.”

She went on to thank Swisher for her “dedicated commitment to our community,” wished her well and said her influence “will remain forever with all of us and our Piqua community.”

When asked why she chose to leave Mainstreet Piqua, Swisher said she wasn’t seeking a change, but the job was presented to her and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Although she is leaving Mainstreet Piqua as executive director, she plans to help mentor the new executive director with the events that will continue through the end of the year in downtown Piqua. She recognizes it is gearing up to be a busy time for Mainstreet Piqua with the holiday season approaching.

Swisher said her husband Tom and grown two daughters, Savannah and Sarah, have been very encouraging and supportive of her decision to make the change. She will now work remotely, and from home most of the time, but admits she will miss the people who work for the city of people and the friends she has made in Piqua.

“One of the things I will really miss is the city workers that I have had the honor of working next to: parks, streets, police, fire, the economic development part of it. I don’t think most of us realize what an incredibly dedicated group of employees we have at the city level,” Swisher said. “They are incredibly hard workers, and I will miss the camaraderie and friendship a lot with them.”

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