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Winge leaving DEP; new director sought

Keith Winge, the executive director of the Downtown Excelsior Partnership since 2009, announced this week that he is leaving that post to take a position with the Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc.

Winge, who came to Excelsior Springs originally to work at The Elms, will serve as Missouri Main Street Connection’s community development coordinator. His last day with DEP is Nov. 1, and a few weeks later he will take his new position.

“I have certainly enjoyed my experience…with DEP and The Elms Hotel & Spa and look forward to working with them and others throughout the state,” said Winge in a public announcement.

DEP president Scott Middleton says the group is as strong as ever and looking forward to continued success for years to come.

“Keith has been and continues to be a tremendous asset to the organization and he will be missed on a personal and professinal level,” Middleton said on Thursday. “However, Keith, the board and the membership base have built up a strong organization that will last many years beyond Keith’s time or even my own time with DEP. We have solid policies and procedures in place that the new executive can follow to prevent any major disruptions to the organization or downtown efforts and events.”

The DEP and MMSC are connected on different levels of the same continuum. The several awards that downtown business (this year, Ventana Gourmet Grill, The Elms and the Villas Downtown) have won in recent years were given through the Main Street organization.

In fact, Winge said he won’t even be moving. He will perform most of his new job out of his home, working with various communities through Missouri in their downtown revitalization and preservation efforts.

Winge started working with the then-fledgling DEP organization in 2006, helping to form the group and then serving as a board member and as board president before he became executive director.

He was instrumental in establishing many of the annual events for which DEP is known, including the Missouri Wine Festival, the Chocolate Tours, the Farmers’ Market, occasional Girls’ Nights Out and the monthly Second Fridays events that combine art, music, shopping and dining.

Middleton said a search committee made up of board members, partners and business or property owners will seek out a top-quality replacement. The job is expected to be posted by next Friday, Oct. 18, with interviews starting around the beginning of October. In the meantime, he said, the board will keep DEP operating at full capacity until a new director is hired. Winge will assist with the transition, as well, to make it as seamless as possible.

“While I’m sure the new director will do things differently, the board and the membership will remain the same,” Middleton said. “The board oversees the direction of the organization and we are driven by four main committees made up most of downtown supporters, who also will stay the same.”

He added that the search committee knows exactly the kind of candidate they need to take DEP forward. “They have the resources they need to market the position and to attract the talent necessary to fill this important role,” Middleton explained. “Finally, we have the financial resources to hire a high-level candidate.”

The Missouri Main Street Connection stated in a newsletter released that they chose Winge for the position due to the professional management and leadership skills he demonstrated during his tenure with DEP.

“We are thrilled and honored to have Keith as part of our team,” said Gayla Roten, MMSC State Director. “His knowledge and enthusiasm will be a valuable resource for the many communities depending on MMSC’s revitalization training and mentoring services.”

With a solid membership base, a forward-looking board and a good framework to attract and retain businesses, develop the downtown environment and keep visitors coming back for more, Middleton said Winge is leaving DEP in a good position to reach new heights in the future.

“There will obviously be some minor disruptions as we go through this transition,” he concluded, “but the board and membership base will rally around DEP and downtown to make this a positive change for the greater good.”

By Eric Copeland •

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