Jarrett hands reins to Reynolds at Main Street Paragould

The changing of the guard. Gina Jarrett (left) retires from the executive directorship of Main Street Paragould on Dec. 31. Miranda Reynolds (right) has been her assistant since March and will succeed her on Jan. 1.

For the first time in more than 15 years, there will be a new skipper at the helm of Main Street Paragould.

Gina Jarrett, executive director of the organization since Aug. 17, 2005, retires effective Dec. 31.

Succeeding her is Miranda Reynolds, assistant executive director since March.

Jarrett said she had not come back to Paragould specifically to work for Main Street Paragould in 2005. “I was a stay-at-home mom,” she said, “and then I got my real estate license.”

Jarrett effectively eased into the job. She said she had been asked first to volunteer for Main Street Paragould, and then to serve on one of its committees. “Then I was asked to serve on the board [of directors],” she said.

Jarrett added that by that time, Main Street Paragould had gone through six executive directors since its incorporation on Aug. 11, 1998. “And there was a quarterly training meeting hosted by Main Street Arkansas,” she said, “and we didn’t have an executive director by then, so I went instead.”

Returning from the training, Jarrett was enthusiastic enough about the program to apply for the vacant executive directorship. “The position needed stability,” she said,”and it needed contacts.” And that’s where Jarrett’s real estate background came into play.

“It was a huge benefit,” she said. “I don’t see how you could do this job without real estate contacts.”

Although there was training (like what she’d already undergone) from Main Street Arkansas, it did not break the job down into “how-to-do” the actual day-to-day tasks and required activities to help make the downtown area grow and thrive.

Noting that downtown was very different in those days from the current downtown, Jarrett said her challenges involved getting the word out regarding what was available in the downtown area, promoting downtown and making people aware of what was happening downtown.

As time went on, Jarrett said, more businesses located to the downtown area, more activities and more programs became available. One such program was a rehabilitation program from Main Street Arkansas, nicknamed the “slipcover removal program.” It involved removal of the coverings from many storefronts to reveal the history behind the coverings. “That [program] created a lot of excitement,” Jarrett said.

The overall excitement and enthusiasm being built in the downtown area helped fill a lot of the previously empty buildings. “It became an overnight success after 15 years,” Jarrett joked.

Jarrett said her greatest source of satisfaction in the job has been the relationships she has been able to build over the years. “Everyone has been working toward the same goal,” she said, “and more and more people see the vision of what the downtown area can be.”

Expansion of the downtown area across the Union Pacific railroad track has been a major milestone, Jarrett said. “And the Farmers’ Market has become a reality,” she said.

Ironically, Jarrett said some have questioned whether moves toward a Farmers’ Market are perhaps proceeding too rapidly. (As previously reported, the Paragould City Council approved a bid from Jonesboro-based Tate General Contractors of $1,999,047 to build the facility.) “But there have been plans to build a Farmers’ Market since 2005,” she said. “And now it’s all coming to fruition.”

Miranda Reynolds joined Main Street Paragould as Jarrett’s assistant in March, thanks to a grant from the Economic Development Corporation of Paragould (EDC).

Reynolds expressed gratitude at the amount of time she’d had to receive training and instruction from Jarrett.

Reynolds will be going solo after Dec. 31. A graduate of Arkansas State University in December 2018 with a major in multimedia journalism, she was hired by KAIT-TV the next month. Originally assigned to cover Randolph, Lawrence and Clay Counties, Reynolds said that as she grew in the television news business she “inherited” Craighead and Greene Counties as her assigned beats.

“So I got introduced to a lot of people in Paragould,” she said.

Both women agreed they had worked very well together. “It’s kinda scary,” Jarrett said. “We’d finish each other’s sentences, we’d have the same thoughts, and so on.”

They worked so closely, in fact, that when the need arose to send a note, they’d sign it as “the Caboose girls.”

“I think people can leave a footprint in the community,” Reynolds concluded. “Gina has. She’s always been everywhere to make an impact on the community in major ways.”

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