Luray Downtown Initiative welcomes new program director

Page News and Courier

LURAY — With new years often come new changes, and the Luray Downtown Initiative heads into 2017 with a new Program Director, Meredith Dees. She officially takes over the position on Feb. 1. She was approved as new director unanimously by the 12-member LDI Board of Directors at their December meeting, following the ouster of former director Jeff McMillan in September.

"He had a one-year contract," said Nancy Lee Shifflett, LDI President. "At the end of that one year, we decided to move forward."

LDI is celebrating its eleventh anniversary in 2017. Created to promote and vitalize Luray's downtown Main Street area, Shifflett believes the group has made great gains over the last decade, and that Dees can continue that work.

Dees initially came to the group in a part-time organizational and administrative support position.

"What I found through that, in that short time since October, was that this is something that I believe in," Dees said. "I'm from here — my husband and I have moved back here recently, and I believe in what the Luray Downtown Initiative does and can do."

She said that becoming the program director was a natural progression.

"The organization needed a director, and when Nancy Lee asked me, I was beyond thrilled and honored," Dees said.

Dees is hoping to become a conduit between LDI and the businesses they help.

"I want to continue to give our merchants an outlet, just to let them know there are like-minded community members who are passionate about downtown Luray, and keeping Main Street a vibrant place to live and work," Dees said.

The proximity of Luray to Harrisonburg and Washington, D.C. is something Dees sees as important for the town's future growth.

"Finding a place for people to start successful businesses and stay in business is really important to a small town — we're so close to a major city, and people love the slow-down factor of Luray," Dees said. "We have the charm of a small town, but also opportunities to bring business to the town."

The long-term goals of LDI are still being discussed.

"In that discussion and planning process, we're bringing everything back to our mission, that being an organization to support downtown Luray," Dees said. "It's a long, strategic process, but one that we are deep into currently."

Short-term, Dees noted that the community can expect to see within the next few weeks the first advertisements for the second-annual "Chicken Chow Down" event, which will be held May 19.

"Page County is one of the major players in poultry production, so that is something that we don't want to forget about — that trickles all the way down to our restaurants," Dees said. "We're going to get all of those players together on May 19. We're really excited about it."

For those interested in becoming involved with LDI, she encourages them to visit their website — — or find them on Facebook by searching "Luray Downtown Initiative."

"Creating and feeding a community is vital," Dees said. "Any community is going to flourish if they have a vibrant downtown — not only for the people who live here, but also for the tourists."

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