The Dalles Main Street has a new face at the helm; New Hampshire native Matthew Klebes will be serving as the downtown program’s coordinator for the next 11 months.
Klebes is part of the RARE program — Resource Assistance for Rural Environments — that has helped The Dalles build programs and services by bringing in energetic college graduates to help build community capacity. The Dalles currently hosts two other RARE participants, one at Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and another at Mid-Columbia Housing Authority.
“It’s part of our professional learning experience through RARE to provide services to the community and to give back,” Klebes said.
Klebes has office space at The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, but the Main Street program is a separate organization charged with developing a lively downtown environment. He and his wife recently returned from serving in the Peace Corps. His wife is a teacher and he worked with children, youth and families.
“Specifically, children in conflict with the law,” Klebes said.
He said his biggest achievement there was to help build a youth rehabilitation center. Previously, youths who committed crimes were either sentenced to the city jail with adults or returned to families that may put them at further risk.
“The youth rehab center provides a separate, 24-hour facility,” Klebes said.
Klebes has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in public policy and management. He said the Main Street program is perfectly in line with his education and professional aims. He has also worked with other downtown revitalization efforts similar to Main Street, including revitalization of a mill town.
He has been attending conferences and getting established in his first month in The Dalles. He attended the Oregon Main Street conference in Astoria and the AmeriCorps Kickoff, of which RARE is just one program. He has also been meeting with the various commissions in the community, and attending board meetings. He has also been meeting with business and property owners downtown.
“When I interviewed in July, The Dalles really stuck out as a place with great potential,” Klebes said.
He interviewed with local leaders, including Lisa Farquharson of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, City Manager Nolan Young and Chuck Covert, chairman of The Dalles Main Street board.
Klebes said his goal is to help The Dalles realize its potential.
“I think The Dalles is a place where I can have some impact and a place where I can learn quite a bit,” he said.
As Main Street coordinator, Klebes has been working with the nonprofit’s board and with its two active committees, promotions and design. He is hoping to recruit new members to the business committee, which has only two members at present.
Another committee, the organization committee, is run by the board.
Klebes’ goal is to help build The Dalles Main Street’s organizational capacity and strengthen its long-term sustainability. He has been updating the group’s contact list, communicating with members and serving as liaison with the community.
“I’m getting a feel for where we want to go,” he said, “and a sense of where things currently lie.”
Right now, the organization’s members are considering what role Main Street will play in the upcoming Christmas celebration. The group is also looking at some small-scale projects to benefit the downtown.
Klebes ran across a couple of ideas while touring Oregon City’s Main Street district that he thinks may translate to The Dalles, including creating planter areas around the downtown trees, instead of the grates currently in place and creating way-finding points around downtown.
Klebes welcomes the opportunity to talk to individuals or groups about The Dalles Main Street. He can be reached at 541-370-2966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.