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Downtown Difference Maker

July 19, 2023
Downtown Difference Maker

It is never one project that defines the Downtown Difference Maker. The downtown comes alive when many actions build upon each other and reach a point where the collective impacts not only demonstrate the power of local downtown focused efforts but also connect a place together in ways that you sometimes can’t describe, plan for, or imagine. 

Working with volunteer groups can feel a bit like herding “well intentioned” cats. Trying to get different personalities to pull in the same direction can be difficult, trying and downright exhausting. Peg Raney of Jefferson knows how to rally the troops to get things done and frequently is tackling multiple projects at once. 

Peg has been a positive force for change in her community and throughout the Main Street Iowa network. Her roots as a schoolteacher translated into a unique style of leadership that has helped empower an entire community to think bigger, engage more and experience success beyond what many people thought was possible. 

Within the Main Street network, Peg has been a coach to many, modeled best practices of the Main Street Approach and helped inspire the Main Street Iowa program to expand work related to community placemaking and volunteer engagement. 

Most recently, Peg helped many ask the question, “Why Not Us,” to incite community engagement in new and exciting ways. 

Peg is oftentimes the person behind the scenes encouraging others. She is a master at surrounding herself with passionate, supportive people who get things done. And through the years, has become an expert in translating the Main Street Approach in her community to maximize results. 

Peg has been actively engaged in community leadership for decades. She began her Main Street journey in May of 2015 when she became the second Executive Director for Jefferson’s Main Street program. 

When she took the job she said, “I don’t know all about Main Street, but I’m willing to learn and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can to help our downtown district thrive. And the time is right for our community. I just got to thinking, I want to be a part of that.”

That willingness to learn and ability to teach has enabled Peg to be an effective leader helping to facilitate partnerships, develop leaders and achieve results. 

After stepping down from her Executive Director role with Jefferson Matters: Main Street in 2020, she maintained her passionate connection by stepping up to lead the Economic Vitality committee. In this role she helped lead efforts to create the Jefferson Wants You incentive. During a recent visit to Jefferson one individual was quoted as saying, “Peg and the Economic Vitality committee are ‘crushing it.’”

Peg is currently Vice President of the Main Street program. She also helped form the Why Not Us development group. Why Not Us has gathered 71 women throughout the community and beyond to invest into downtown Jefferson through the purchase and rehabilitation of the Centennial Building. The Centennial once again has an operating restaurant on the first floor; the group is now tackling the development of new upper floor housing units on the second floor.

Peg has provided leadership in her community and throughout the state by inspiring others through her actions. The Iowa Downtown Resource Center can’t wait to see what she does next for the betterment of Downtown Jefferson!

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