Downtown group hires new director

NASHUA – The Great American Downtown has hired an executive director with a background in historic preservation to lead the group into its third year.

Sarah DiSano, of Dorchester, Mass., a former program coordinator for the nonprofit group Preservation Mass, is expected to start as the executive director of the downtown group in mid-December. She is expected to be here Saturday at the Winter Holiday Stroll meeting people.

Joy Barrett, leader of the group’s search committee, said DiSano had the experience, the strong interest and the personality to be executive director.

The executive director of such a small nonprofit has to be able to shift gears quickly, Barrett said. The person must be comfortable talking with city leaders at City Hall and then do more everyday work, like hanging posters.

And DiSano, who replaces former executive director John Mitterholzer, was interested in all facets of the job, Barrett said. Mitterholzer left in

DiSano could not be reached for comment earlier this week.

The Great American Downtown is a civic group made up of merchants, residents, restaurateurs and banks that promotes the continued revitalization of downtown. It officially came into existence at the Winter Holiday Stoll in 2002.

The group’s second annual Halloween blowout drew thousands of costumed children and adults to the heart of the city last month. The biggest event of the year happens Saturday with the Winter Holiday Stroll, when performers and residents alike fill the downtown.

One of the biggest tasks for DiSano will be to build up the five committees that are the foundation of the organization. Three committees are running strong, but the volunteer outreach and fund-raising committees need to be strengthened with new members, Barrett said. Reinforcing the committees was identified as a priority in a strategic planning session last year, she said.

The organization used newspaper ads, postings with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street organization, and other related Internet sites to attract some 50 resumes. The applications were trimmed to a half dozen, and then two applicants were interviewed.

Barrett said the committee worked to ensure the new director would be a good match for downtown. She said the goal was to look at filling the position from the perspective of a new store downtown as well as one with deep family roots on Main Street.

The salary range is between $40,000 and $43,000.