Downtown: Meet the all-new staff of Intown Concord

  • Intown Concord’s new executive director, Michelle Motuzas Johnson (left), and events and outreach coordinator Kate Fleming pose at the nonprofit’s office recently. NICK REID / Monitor staff

Monday, November 21, 2016

There are two new faces at the two-person office of Intown Concord these days, but the focus there remains the same as it has been at this time every year: Midnight Merriment.

All at once, Michelle Motuzas Johnson and Kate Fleming are getting settled and getting prepared for one of the nonprofit’s biggest events, the night that Concord stays up late to welcome in the holiday shopping season.

Johnson, the recently hired executive director, said it’s simultaneously “a little chaotic and it’s exciting” as she and Fleming, the new events and outreach coordinator, organize their first Midnight Merriment on Dec. 2, while learning the ropes of their new roles.

“We’re texting each other at night: Are you overwhelmed?” Johnson said.

Fleming said the answer is yes, but it’s offset by their mutual certainty that they’re working on something they’re passionate about – fostering a healthy downtown – in ideal positions for them.

Fleming, 38, moved to Concord last year after a short stint in Manchester and a decade in New York City, most of that time running her own public relations business.

When she read the job description for her current position, “I said – and I still say it – if I could literally write down what I want in a job, this is what I want,” she said. “Not only do I really respect this organization and what they do and what they’ve done, I just love my role in it now.”

It was much the same for Johnson, 50, who is moving to the South End this week from Manchester. Happy in her role doing marketing for a small engineering firm, she said she wasn’t looking for a new job when a friend implored her to check out the posting for the executive director position for Intown Concord.

When she did, it brought back memories from her 20 years in nonprofit administration.

“As I went down the bullet points, I went, ‘Oh, I love doing that. I forgot how much I loved doing that. Oh, I’m really good at that. Oh, this would be a really good job,’ so I applied,” she said.

They’re each thankful that they won their new jobs, and that the outgoing operations manager, Liza Poinier, has been around to help the transition. Poinier said she’ll stay on through this week, but she felt it was time for her to “explore new opportunities.”

“Truthfully, I’m just going to take a break and start looking again in January,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be able to do that.”

Once the duo has made it through Midnight Merriment, which along with traditional attractions will feature a s’mores station at City Plaza, they can begin to think about how they’ll put their own spin on the next year of Intown Concord’s signature events.

Johnson said those events – which include Market Days and Halloween Howl – help to get residents and merchants gathering together and keeping the downtown strong.

Fleming attested to that personally, saying she and her two young children got to know the community in part through Intown Concord events. She attended the Halloween Howl shortly after she moved here, she said, “and both my husband and I walked away just feeling really excited to be in Concord.”

Johnson said she’s impressed with the diversity of shopping and livelihood Concord has maintained downtown, while other communities have suffered amid suburbanization.

“I know this sounds really trite and cheesy,” Johnson said, “but ever since I was a little girl I wanted to live in a town that’s very community oriented and very walkable and has a very vibrant and lively downtown, where I could walk downtown and have people know who I am and everyone knows what’s going on.”

She’s almost there, but the tail end of that dream relies on you getting to know her. That’s why she and Fleming have planned a meet and greet event for just that reason. It’s set for 8 to 10 a.m., Nov. 30, at McGowan Fine Art Gallery, 10 Hills Ave.

There’s also Midnight Merriment coming up soon, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 2. For a full schedule of events that day, see intownconcord.org/events/midnight-merriment.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickBReid.)