“Even in very small towns, downtown is essential. Downtown is the economic core and social vibrancy center of any community. The strength of a downtown directly reflects the town as a whole.”
Meet the Executive Director
Mickey Howley is the Executive Director of the Downtown Natchez Alliance (DNA). A native of New Orleans, he brings nearly 20 years of downtown revitalization experience to Natchez’s historic downtown. Howley’s goal for Natchez is to help shepherd the strategy for a sustainable, socially vibrant, and economically robust Downtown Natchez.
“In Natchez, the parts and pieces that we need to do the job are already here: the hard assets, the buildings and built spaces, as well as the soft assets, an energized group of people who care and are willing to work to make it better,” he explains. “When we add in the tall bluff, the river view, the unmatched walkability of Downtown Natchez, and the city’s terrific downtown master plan, we realize that we already have more than we imagined.”
In his speeches and presentations from Water Valley to the White House, he likes to paraphrase William Butler Yeats because the idea is central to the work Howley excels in as a downtown revitalization professional: If the center cannot hold, things fall apart. “We must have a strong core, a strong downtown for the whole town to be that great ‘good place,’” says Howley.
Nearly 20 Years experience with Downtown Revitalization:
• Water Valley Historic Preservation Commission
Commission Chair (2018 – 2022)
• Water Valley Main Street Association, Water Valley, MS
Executive Director (2009 – 2021)
Member, Board of Directors: (2007 –2009)
• Mississippi Main Street
Member, State Board (2010 – 2015)
• Mississippi Development Authority
Asset Mapping Team Member (2013 – 2018)
• Southern Oklahoma State University:
Bachelor of Arts – history/social studies education (1999)
• University of New Orleans:
Studied business administration, history, and English (1978 – 1984)
“Best in State” Awards from the Mississippi Main Street Association:
• Best Public Improvement Project 2009,
• Best Creative Fundraiser 2010, 2011, 2012
• Best Special Event 2011, 2012
• Best Signage 2012
• Main Street Manager of the Year 2012
• Main Street Merchant of the Year 2014
• Best Newsletter 2015
• Community Transformation Award 2018
• Best Adaptive Re-Use of a Historic Building 2011, 2014, 2015, 2020
Awards from the Mississippi Heritage Trust:
• Community Revitalization 2016
• Best Renovation 2017
Water Valley, MS
Howley was part of one of Mississippi’s most famous downtown success stories as a board member of the start-up Water Valley Main Street Association. He then led the organization as executive director from 2009 to 2021. Howley also served as chair of Water Valley’s Historic Preservation Commission from 2018 to 2022 until his move to Natchez. Water Valley has been hailed at both the state and national Main Street levels as a genius turnaround of a declining downtown. The town was featured in a three-page article in The New York Times; Preservation Magazine talked about the grittiness of the effort; and Food & Wine magazine called Water Valley a “Best Little Food Town.” Today, Water Valley is still the “Creative Economy” poster town for Mississippi. “The impact was incremental and steady, and the result was a socially vibrant and economically robust downtown,” says Howley.
Mississippi Main Street State Board
From December 2010 to February 2015, Howley served on the board of the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA) as the twice-elected representative of his fellow town directors. During this time, he assisted in legislative outreach and statewide fundraising with public and private partners. He also successfully advocated for diversifying the board, as well as holding board meetings outside of Jackson and in small towns. As part of this work. Howley conducted town director surveys, visiting and walking 49 of the then 57 Mississippi Main Street districts (certified and network towns).
Mississippi Development Authority
From 2013 to 2018, Howley worked as the downtown specialist on MDA’s Asset Mapping Team to develop economic improvement plans and efforts in 18 Mississippi towns.