Holst brings new ideas to Main Street Elkader

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Amy Holst

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


Main Street Elkader (MSE) has seen its share of directors come and go, for myriad reasons, in recent years. But when one person leaves, it opens the door for someone new, with their own experiences and visions for the community. Such is the case for new director Amy Holst. 


Holst has spent the last 23 years in Elkader, and, along with husband Steve, is tethered to the community through a variety of things, including having two boys at Central Community School and co-owning Turkey River AXEperience. Holst is also a real estate agent with EXIT Realty, has served on the Elkader Fitness Center board since 2008 and has spent years working as a regional administrator at Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA). 


Additionally, Holst brings experience through other related fields, such as working in education as a teacher, school counselor, school improvement facilitator and regional administrator. Holst has developed skills she prides herself on, like relationships, collaboration and clear communication skills, as well as problem solving and prioritizing. 


Another thing that brings Holst pride is Elkader, the “charming community” that “boasts a historically significant commercial downtown area.” As director, she will have direct influence over it, and as such, she is “dedicated to upholding exceptionally high standards for downtown economic development.”


“It’s imperative that we continue to leverage the potential of our downtown district while ensuring support for all our businesses in our community, no matter what side of the bridge they are located. I am excited to contribute to the next phase of revitalization in our community,” Holst explained. 


Holst will lean on the aforementioned skills, as well as utilizing community partnerships, technology for efficiency and setting clear goals and expectations, while also working closely with others involved with MSE or revitalization of the city. That includes city administrator Jennifer Cowsert, the Main Street Board, Main Street Iowa, Elkader City Council, Art in the Park and other committees and communities she will learn from as she takes over the position.


“I believe I have a good understanding of what our city and community believe in and I look forward to representing our charming town,” Holst said. 


One reason the committee charged with hiring the fifth director in about four years selected Holst over six other worthy candidates is because of a demonstrated understanding of the community and the position. While there is a familiarity with Holst given her history, businesses and other associations with Elkader, her preparation, among other things, was impressive.


“I’ve never seen someone more prepared and organized for an interview,” said Tony Hauber, committee member and city council liaison to MSE. “She had done her homework and maybe could even have taught me a thing or two about Main Street.” 


It was a sentiment fellow committee member Cowsert agreed with, citing that Holst showed up to the interview having done research into the position, spoken with individuals involved and had a good idea of what the job entailed before deciding it was the right fit. Cowsert noted other factors, such as Holst’s ties to the community and the overall belief she would bring stability to the role in a way that would help guide its future. 


The lack of recent stability meant, this time around, the committee focused on promoting the organization and how it benefits the community, allowing candidates to “connect with the role more,” in Hauber’s words. In an effort to halt the exodus of directors after short stints, the committee held two rounds of interviews before ultimately deciding on Holst. 


“Amy has shown a tremendous commitment to this role. She understands what being a director takes, and she has proven herself to be a passionate, loyal and motivated member of the institutions that she participates in,” Hauber added. 


In response to a question about longevity, Holst adamantly stated she “has no intentions of leaving the position any time soon.”


“I’m eagerly anticipating this new journey, confident in my ability to bring energy and passion to the table as the former Main Street/Economic Development Directors have delivered to our community in the past,” Holst said.


Though she will not officially take over the role until July 1, that doesn’t mean Holst doesn’t have ideas, goals and a vision for when she gets there. Among them will be continuing the efforts of predecessors on the hotel project and housing committee, which, according to Cowsert, have slowed, since former director Samantha Baumgartner left a little over a year ago. 


In preparation for this, Holst plans to meet with the different MSE committees to “seek input on the many different needs/desires and dreams.” 


“Through collaboration with all stakeholders, I will have a better understanding and vision for plans to move ahead in the near future,” she said. 


Holst has other plans that will continue to support downtown, while also focusing on revitalization efforts and preserving history. The list includes Art in the Park in August, revitalizing Keystone Park, ensuring downtown beautification, learning more about upper story housing and eventually having a holiday drive-through light show similar to surrounding communities.


“I am excited about the prospect of rejuvenating Keystone Park, a project I eagerly anticipate contributing to,” Holst added.


In regard to launching the holiday lights drive-through experience, which she indicated was inspired by neighboring communities, Holst believes it will “provide an attraction and offer local businesses a platform to shine and showcase our community’s charm.” 


It is “just a glimpse of the numerous ideas I am eager to implement,” she said.


There will be a focus on not just supporting businesses but attracting new ones, while also looking to bring in more people. For both, Holst insisted she is dedicated to learning about and identifying opportunities to achieve those goals. 


Holst already plans to personally visit each local business to tour their facilities and gain a comprehensive understanding of their missions. 


“It’s important for me to grasp their current operations in order to effectively promote business development, as I want this to be a shared vision,” Holst said. “I look forward to exploring innovative strategies to further drive economic and business development.”


It’s one challenge the MSE director is faced with, and so is finding volunteers, taking advantage of commercial opportunities, recruiting new members and expanding the organization and its offerings. 


On the volunteer question, Holst noted that keeping them is “always tough,” but highlighted a plan to minimize that difficulty that relies on presenting a clear vision, accommodation of family and schedules, efficiency and being open and receptive to all feedback while also letting volunteers know how valued they are. 


None of that will matter—not the volunteers, visions or goals—if Elkader doesn’t remain a vibrant place to work, live and visit. Holst is committed to making sure Elkader “remains an attractive place for people to live, work and raise families.”


“By working together and embracing change, Elkader can continue to thrive and evolve as a vibrant place for people of all ages to call home,” Holst said. 

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