The interim executive director of the Olde Towne Shelton Association has been chosen to take over the position for real. Debbie Webber, treasurer of the association, was made the official executive director.

Webber replaces Linda Paronen, who recently took a position with the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. The action follows close on the heels of relocation of the Association offices within the historic Mercantile Building, which is being renovated by owners Jill and Scott Barnard.

Webber was chosen for her background, which includes 18 years experience in local community affairs, says immediate past President Ryan Davis. Webber majored in small community public administration at The Evergreen State College, where she recently earned her degree.

“It seems to us she’s got the stuff to make things work,” Davis says.

Tops on the priority list will be developing a marketing plan for the association, says Webber, who is busy analyzing various state data as well as a recent survey to accomplish that goal.

“It’s not glamorous but it’s real vital,” Davis says of the the plan, which will be discussed at the next association meeting in June.

Webber and the 110-member association she directs also also helping beautify downtown Shelton with a streetlight flower basket program being coordinated with the Shelton Chamber of Commerce and the City of Shelton. In a joint project, the business organizations are mobilizing to generate funds needed by June to hang two flower baskets from each of 24 street lamps on First Avenue and Railroad Avenue in downtown Shelton. The Chamber hopes to expand the project to all of Mason County, including such areas as Union.

“No matter which way people come to the downtown,” Webber says, “they’ll be greeted with these gorgeous poles. The hanging flowers will be maintained by the City.”

The City of Shelton will purchase and install brackets for baskets on city streets. The Chamber is purchasing bracket hardware for any other area that commits to taking part in the $44,000 program.

“The brackets are actually being made at the prison,” says Webber, by which she means the Shelton Corrections Center.

Funding for the baskets is being sought in the form of donations from area merchants.

“It’s a real win-win,” Davis says. “Business people have been saying, ‘It’s about time.’ They’re really pleased with the project.”

The association, which recently was recognized for downtown revitalization excellence by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center in Washington, D.C., isn’t stopping at helping to make the downtown more attractive visually—it wants to attract visitors with audio stimuli, as well.

Music in the Park, an ongoing association project that “Webber is organizing this year, begins July 8 and continues until Aug. 19, when a string of bands will play at Post Office Park near the Shelton Post Office.

For the first time, the association has secured the use of nearby Memorial Hall for its restroom facilities—and for somewhere to hold shows in the case of rain.

“Rain or shine,” says Webber, “we’ll be able to hold Music in the Park.”

The association moved its offices from one corner of the Mercantile Building to another during renovation of the structure from the inside and out. The new owners are converting the building’s nearly 10,000-square-foot second story from essentially open space to a number of adjustable offices. They say they’re attempting to preserve the “building’s historic look while updating everything from windows to the floor.

Project contractor John Arrant says the renovation is expected to be complete by July, but an open house will be held June 16. Among the curiosities he and his crew have encountered is a locked combination safe that was once used by former occupant Simpson Timber. Arrant is in the process of trying to find combination.

The Shelton Chamber plans to move its office to the building, as well, which Webber says will facilitate better communication with the association.

Among all the changes will be a new name for the structure—The 1912 Building in commemoration of the year it was erected. Prior to the renovation, The 1912 Building, which is credited with stopping the 1914 fire that destroyed much of the rest of the city because of its clay construction, housed the Mercantile Mall, which sold antiques.

By Kamilla K. McClelland, Business Examiner staff