“Julie was easily the most qualified candidate we interviewed; she had more experience than all the other candidates combined,” Dedman said. “We feel really good about her coming to Harrodsburg. Our Main Street program is recognized in the top tier in the state. The blocks have been laid for a nationally recognized program, and Julie, with her connections and experience and expertise, can put us on the national level.”
Wagner begins in Harrodsburg on March 5. She’s moving from an agency with an annual budget of $169,000 to one with a budget of about $60,000. She’s taking a “significant” pay cut, but she says “it’s not always about the money.”
The youngest of her three children recently graduated from college, and Wagner, 46, said the timing is right to go in a new direction.
“It’s just me, (husband) Robert and the dog now. We’re at the point we can take a little risk and have fun,” she said. “For me, this is really a life-changing event — I never thought I’d leave the Heart until they pushed me out the door — but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.”
Part of the attraction of Harrodsburg First is teaming up with a community that has been on a roll of late, Wagner said. Corning and Hitachi have major expansions under way, and Mercer County’s Community Action Partnership, which has grown to include about 30 civic-minded agencies in its three years of existence, has unified a push for progress. Downtown has a good stock of historic buildings and has been moving to create a new-and-improved retail environment, she said.
“Harrodsburg’s really got the ball rolling. I’m looking forward to being part of that Harrodsburg dynamic,” Wagner said.
Dedman, manager of Beaumont Inn, agreed that good things are happening. “There is a positive momentum in the community right now, there are some big quality-of-life programs that are starting to gain some traction.”
Wagner said she is leaving Heart “in a fabulous place” and is confident the Danville organization won’t miss a beat because of her departure. The agency’s board of directors is scheduled to meet next week to set up the parameters for finding her replacement.
“I’m not leaving with any ill will toward anyone here,”¿Wagner said. “I’m sure they’ll probably find someone better than me to come in and move things forward. Maybe some new blood here will bring in some new ideas I haven’t even thought of.”