Betsy McGuire, the face of Main Street Russellville, is retiring from a position she’s held since since October 19, 1993. That’s 25 years as executive director. That’s 25 years of commitment and dedication to the revitalization and restoration of downtown Russellville now traded in for the new adventure of retirement.
An alum of Southern State College and UCA’s Community Development Institute, Betsy has served on the boards of the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Festival Association, the Pope County Extension Council, and the Governor’s Mansion Advisory Council. She is also a National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Certified Main Street Manager. In all of her positions, Betsy has worked closely with state agencies, city and county officials, downtown merchants, and property owners concerning the revitalization and redevelopment of properties within the historic heart of the city. Betsy understands the economic impact of how preserving community character plays into community growth and development.
Betsy admitted that when she first started in her role she didn’t intend to stay on for a quarter century, but she soon realized her position was more than a job. It was that passion and a commitment to seeing the full potential of downtown flourish that motivated her to stay. It was knowing that as soon as one project was complete another would start, and caring so deeply to see the plans followed through to completion kept Betsy planted and dedicated. “Right now downtown is in a really good place,” said Betsy. “Perfect time to hand it off to someone who can keep the momentum moving forward, and the board of directors is well positioned to see the organization move into the future.”
Throughout her years as director, Betsy has achieved high honors including recognition as Main Street Arkansas’ Executive Director of the Year in 1998. She was selected as a recipient of Women’s Life Award presented by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in 2000, named as the 2006 Outstanding Woman of the year by The Courier, and presented with the Key to the City of Russellville in 2016 by Mayor Randy Horton. However, Betsy will be the first to tell you that her most significant achievements have involved seeing downtown reborn and thriving once again. “In our annual report for last year, we had over one-million dollars of improvements take place in downtown,” said Betsy. “But when we recapped our 25 years, we had over 10 million dollars in projects that Main Street Russellville had taken on in the effort to restore, renew and revitalize the downtown district.”
Betsy knows it takes a village to succeed in any accomplishments no matter how big or small. “Communities everywhere are seeing how important the heart of their cities is to the city as a whole,” said Betsy. “Moreover, even though my mission field is downtown, I’m just a small slice of the community development pie because everything that goes on in a community also works toward making that community a better place and reaching its full potential. Main Street is that slice that just happens to work toward the downtown district, truly the heart and soul of a city.”
Betsy believes that success in a community doesn’t hinge on just one idea. “There is no such thing as a silver bullet, there is never a single thing that will push you over the top,” said Betsy. “Instead, it’s the domino effect. The brick-by-brick, two-step-forward-one-step-back building on those past successes. But the two most important aspects regarding growing and developing downtown is the vibrancy and dynamic.” Betsy said that growing the cultural side of a community and combining it with a city hub aspect gives the community a reason to come downtown. “And the perception, how people view their community, has been elevated.”
No good deeds come without challenges, and as towns grow the focus is on expansion and infrastructure. But Betsy always believed that while accommodating growth, you should maintain what you already have. In her case, that was the center of the community — downtown.
The changes to Russellville’s historic downtown from prior to Betsy Mcguire to today are remarkable. For 25 years Betsy has been committed to making Main Street and downtown Russellville the best it can be. She has been dedicated, thoughtful and visionary with many ideas that have positively impacted and contributed to the success that is being recognized today, including two awards from Main Street Arkansas this year. Over the years Betsy leveraged the support of volunteers, downtown property owners, state and local resources, grants and many other creative endeavors until today she is respected and supported both by her constituents and her peers. And she is not leaving with the cupboards bare. Main Street is prepared to continue to thrive and further improve with many programs and initiatives already in place to ensure that the continuation of this progress can be anticipated.
Mayor Randall L. Horton
CITY OF RUSSELLVILLE
“When I came back to Russellville in 2015 after 13 years of being away, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the downtown district had grown and improved. The more I learned about the efforts and strides behind those changes, the more I learned about Betsy McGuire. She had a vision of what our downtown could become, about the opportunities it could offer our community and hometown businesses, and the clarity to understand what a wonderful asset a thriving downtown could be here in Russellville. She listens with piercing attention to her community members and merchants to try and understand their needs, and she understands that our downtown community as a whole is larger than the sum of its parts. As I have opened my business downtown, Betsy has always met me with an open door and support. She is a fabulous person who has been an invaluable asset to our downtown, and my only regret is not having overlapped her tenure here longer. She will be missed, and we are a better community for having her in it.”
A Beautiful Mess
“I’ve only been downtown for about three years, but Betsy has always been helpful when I have approached her with an issue or idea. She goes above and beyond for the downtown area.”
Kob Jai Thai Restaurant
“Not only do I ‘shop, dine, and unwind’ in Russellville Downtown, I also live and work here as well. I have seen, from start to finish, so many incredible projects funded by grants that Betsy has assisted building owners in obtaining. She is the powerhouse behind the downtown revitalization while carefully preserving the district’s character. Betsy’s energy, vision, and passion for Russellville Downtown will be missed. What a legacy!”
C&D Drug Store
“As a new business to downtown Russellville, I was honored that Betsy made time to come to our opening night. I enjoyed speaking to her and she was very supportive of our endeavors.”
West Main Gallery
“I just want to thank Betsy for her years of service and being a good friend. She has been a blast to work with trying to make downtown a great place for the city of Russellville. It is in a much better place because of her efforts. She has helped me and many other downtowners get funding to improve our buildings and keep us competitive in the business environment. Thanks for everything and we’ll be seeing you around.”
R. D. Walker
C&D Drug Store
“Betsy was instrumental in transforming downtown Russellville from a place that had many empty storefronts to an inviting area where it is hard to find a parking spot. She has been so warm and helpful to me, especially when I was preparing to open B Street Books, offering sage advice and hooking me up with the right people to find a storefront. Her constant presence as a downtown leader will be missed.”
B Street Books
“Betsy’s warm smile, cheerful demeanor, and swishing ponytail have been such an integral part of Downtown Russellville for years. Her work as a liaison between the city of Russellville and downtown business owners was very much appreciated. She was dedicated to the growth and preservation of our historic part of Main Street, and she will be greatly missed.”
The Scarlet Locke Hair Lounge
“Betsy McGuire has been the face of Main Street Russellville for many years. The evolution from a mostly dark and somewhat lifeless area of the town into the vibrant, electric, and full of life center of town that we see today has been the culmination of Betsy’s love, dedication, and passion for downtown Russellville. She has been the driving force behind many of the improvements to the most prominent projects; she has been available to help in any way needed. The new, revitalized downtown Russellville is very much due to the hard work and efforts of Betsy.”
“Betsy McGuire is someone that all downtowns need to have at least once in their lifespan. She has encouraged people to rethink the Main Street district as a place where all are welcome and has made it feel like a home-away-from-home. From the relationships she has with business owners, to her ability to draw anyone into a wider downtown discussion without alienating them, she has fought long and hard to make Russellville Downtown what it is today. I first met Betsy when I was ready to jump into the downtown scene with my design agency. She helped identify places that would suit my business, gives fantastic advice, and never makes a decision without hearing it out completely. She has brought me out of my shell by seeing the potential I was blind to, and in doing so, helped change my life for the better. She is leaving an amazing legacy, and I know everyone downtown will do their best to keep her vision alive and build on it in a way we know will make her proud. Shopping Small is something she wholeheartedly believes in, and the local merchants knew we had a champion in her. I know great thing lies ahead for her and downtown, and I wish her all the luck and love I can muster.”
Dog Ear Books
Betsy truly believes that downtown is the window to the soul of your community. The love and commitment she’s shown while serving with Main Street Russellville is reflected not only in the developments and improvements of downtown but in the relationships she has built. Her absence from Main Street Russellville and her words of wisdom, eloquently spoken and always positive, will be greatly missed.
For Betsy, her next endeavors includes more balance, concentrating on her family, and spending more time with her grandson.