By John Harvey
Maggie Beal Longest spent countless hours of her childhood exploring downtown Ashland and enjoying everything it had to offer.
Starting Jan. 2, 2018, Longest will be responsible for the continued growth of the area by preserving history and encouraging viable business development in the Town of Ashland after being named the new executive director of the Ashland Main Street Association.
“It is a privilege to work for my hometown,” Longest said. “I look forward to partnering with friends and neighbors to strengthen downtown Ashland. I hope my experience in economics, government and advocacy can benefit the community.”
Longest takes over as executive director for Tom Wulf, who has held the position since 2010.
“Ashland Main Street Association has built great success over the past ten years under the leadership of its volunteers, board and especially executive director Tom Wulf,” Longest said. “W are so fortunate to have strong business community, civic organizations, college, parks, arts and much more. Ashland Main Street Association is intended to bring all partners together in a centralized way, to build community and economy in downtown Ashland that benefits everyone.”
Longest is well adept at handling these duties after a career working with local and national government agencies. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in science and earned her master’s degree at North Carolina State.
She served three years as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator John Barrasso and two years as a policy director in the western caucus of the Senate. In addition, Longest served two years as the manager of the National Cattlemen’s Association.
From there, Longest moved on as business development coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. She served as a policy analyst on government efficiency and reform in North Carolina from 2013-15.
Longest returned to the area and spent the last two years as Virginia Farm Bureau business development program coordinator.
She credits these experiences for preparing her for her new role with the AMSA and Ashland Museum.
“Most recently, I worked with small businesses and entrepreneurs in food and agriculture,” Longest said. “I provided resources and workshops on business planning, financial management and marketing. I hope that experience will apply directory to downtown Ashland.”
Longest has extensive experience in economics, government and advocacy groups at the local, state and national level, which she believes is a plus.
“My goal is always to bring people together to support their common goals,” she said. “I hope my skills will benefit the community.”
Longest is not a stranger to the Virginia Main Street program, working with the organization extensively during her time with the Virginia Farm Bureau. She noted VMSP provides helpful tools for community and economic develop and believes Ashland’s four-point approach of economic vitality, organization, promotion and design meet AMSA’s main vision.
The task is arduous, but Longest will not be tasked with doing it alone. The AMSA is known for its strong leadership group, including Wulf, who will remain associated with the group as a volunteer.
Longest praised Wulf for his leadership role with the organization and believes his experience will be invaluable to her has she takes over the position.
“Tom Wulf led Ashland Main Street Association to its current success,” Longest said. “Tom deserves enormous praise for all he has done, and continues to do, for Ashland. I am fortunate that he has pledged to continue his involvement as a volunteer and I expect the transition to be smooth. He leaves very big shoes to fill.”
Ashland Main Street Association continues to thrive thanks to initiatives and events like Ashland Train Day, Chalk Walk, Untold Stories and Light up the Tracks.
Longest said it’s imperative to continue to build on the success of those programs and expand to find other ways to promote Ashland.
“I hope first and foremost, to serve as a resource for Ashland’s downtown business community,” Longest said. I will offer my services to local businesses and community leaders alike. We all want downtown Ashland to thrive.”