The nonprofit that promotes downtown Anniston has hired a new executive director, about six months since the last one left her job.
The board of directors for Main Street Anniston hired Phillip Stephenson Jr. as executive director of the nonprofit, Gayle Macolly, chairwoman of the board said Tuesday. Stephenson, 35, of Lyndon, Kan., will start work July 14 with a salary of approximately $50,000 a year, Macolly said.
The city of Anniston finances the nonprofit, formerly known as Spirit of Anniston, and appropriated $179,000 to its 2014 budget.
Stephenson's hire comes after his predecessor, Dianna Michaels, left her position in December. Macolly has said she will not divulge whether Michaels resigned or was fired, noting the contract between Michaels and the nonprofit had a confidentiality agreement.
Macolly said the board received about 50 applications for the position and of those chose four for face-to-face interviews. The two best were later invited to return to Anniston to make a presentation and meet with city officials and city business owners.
Macolly said Stephenson was the best fit for the area.
"He's had about five years of Main Street experience ... personality-wise he's a good fit with our board and merchants," Macolly said. "We're excited about having him join up — he brings a lot of knowledge and a lot of energy."
Stephenson said he worked several years as an assistant director for the Main Street program in Emporia, Kan., before eventually becoming a director of a similar program in Ottawa, Kan. However, for the last two years Stephenson has taught jazz band and music theory at Santa Fe Trail High School in Kansas, while still volunteering to help with the local Main Street program.
Stephenson graduated from Emporia State University with a bachelor of arts in music.
Stephenson said he first got involved with the Main Street program in Emporia while in college.
"When I was in college, I was in a fraternity and we had to do community service, and I did a downtown cleanup project for Main Street there," Stephenson said. "The woman who was running the program asked if I was interested in being an assistant, so I helped plan events for two years, then went on to become a director."
After learning some Main Street director positions were opening up in Alabama, Stephenson decided to take a look and eventually chose Anniston.
"I'll be helping existing businesses succeed and grow while trying to recruit new businesses and property development," Stephenson said of his new job.
Mary Helmer, president of Main Street Alabama, said Stephenson was her assistant when she was director of the Main Street program in Emporia.
"He's a good guy and he knows a lot and is really good at relationship building," Helmer said. "I think he has good Main Street experience."
Macolly said the board wants Stephenson to help create a strategic plan for the nonprofit soon as his main goal this year. The Anniston City Council approved a similar, city-wide strategic plan last month.
"We want to develop a strategic plan for the first year and then for five years and make sure it's in line with the city's overall strategic plan so he'll have a great road map," Macolly said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.