Downtown guru to leave city job

NASHUA – Will anyone be there to answer the phone in the economic development office?

With City Hall reopening its search for a director, the assistant economic development director, Alan Manoian, said he will leave his position Dec. 17.

Manoian would not reveal much about his future plans, except that he accepted an offer with an economic development firm in the Boston area.

He has been closely connected to the rebirth of downtown over the last several years.

Manoian helped turn around downtown and attracted residents to the historic center of the city with popular programs, such as the annual holiday stroll and historical walking tours in the summer. He played a part in developing the proposed Jackson Falls condominiums along the Nashua River and the historical facade restoration of the former Goodale’s Bike shop, as well as developing a brand for Nashua as a place to do business.

“Alan had an awful lot of vision,” said John Mitterholzer, executive director of the Great American Downtown.

Mitterholzer’s organization grew out of a 2002 initiative started by Manoian, aimed at getting the city designated a Main Street community.A leader in the state Main Street organization explained the city’s attempt failed largely because downtown was already successfully on its way to a renaissance.

“I’m grateful to Alan. He made my job a whole lot easier,” Mitterholzer said.

And Mayor Bernie Streeter said there is a direct link between the now-thriving downtown and Manoian’s effort.

Streeter said while he was sorry to see Manoian go, he understood that his professional development would take him elsewhere.

“He has done more in this community to improve the downtown probably than anybody in its history,” Streeter said.

Meanwhile, City Hall has tried to recruit a new director for the department since June.

During his re-election campaign, Streeter touted the opening of the economic development department as a sign of how his administration dealt with the softening economy.

The mayor said the search is being renewed to attract a director.

The city’s first-choice candidate took a job elsewhere, Streeter said.

And while there were other applicants to review, many were second-level managers, not the top managers in a city comparable in size to Nashua, Streeter said.

Streeter said he expects to fill the position by the end of the month and he, Mark Sousa, his business liaison, and Kathy Hersh, the community development director, will pick up the department’s job responsibilities.

He said the salary for the director position put the city at a disadvantage in attracting people. The position’s salary ceiling is $81,164.

The set of resumes for the last applicants are six months old, so the city reopened the search and will accept resumes through 5 p.m. on Dec. 19.