We were surprised to hear the news last week that Oxford’s Mainstreet Manager Dave Haradon had been relieved of his duties.
When he took the reins of the organization last August, he literally hit the ground running.
In the past nine months, we have observed him overseeing one after another interesting, entertaining and well-attended public activities.
We were especially impressed during the holiday season when he orchestrated the town’s Country Christmas. Many people we interviewed said they were happier than they had ever been at the event before, because he arranged to have 3rd Street closed to auto traffic, and their kids were free to run around.
He also seemed to have gotten kids and merchants excited about the Easter egg hunt.
Additionally, he apparently did not hesitate to work with Lincoln University when they asked to have their homecoming parade in the borough.
When we interviewed Mr. Haradon’s boss, OMI Board of Directors Chairman Ed Herr, about the termination, he seemed to bear no ill will toward the man he had just fired.
Likewise, when we talked to Mr. Haradon, he was gracious and appreciative for the chance to have served in Oxford.
He did however, express frustration that residents, merchants and his board did not seem to realize that he followed almost to a T the protocol for revitalizing a town in the style of the national Mainstreet organization.
He pointed out that in his first few weeks, his job was not to suddenly bring wealth and prosperity into the town. Rather, it was to listen to people and find out what they wanted for their town.
We saw him do that.
We were also aware that when he had activities going on in town, he seemed to have tasks delegated and committees working.
The main impression we have received for the reason Mr. Haradon was let go was the dissatisfaction by some members of the community that he was working either too aggressively or that he was asking for cooperation that old timers were unwilling to give.
Admittedly, Mr. Haradon comes on pretty strong sometimes. He is loud and very enthusiastic.
It is possible that a segment of the community didn’t want to buy into his style or even change at all.
One person suggested that when stores or eating establishments went out of business, he didn’t do anything to save or resurrect them. But perhaps that was the price to pay for revitalization.
Looking back through history, it occurs to us that sometimes institutions have to fall and be replaced before progress can occur.
But here is another idea worth considering:
Mr. Haradon came to town saying he had learned quite a bit about revitalization from being part of the Kennett Square Mainstreet Board. He pointed to the overwhelming success Kennett is now having with stores, restaurants and special events.
And he was right. One only has to consider the crowds that come to Kennett Square First Fridays, the Mushroom Festival, the restaurants, Cinco de Mayo and the seasonal festivities around the holidays.
But perhaps some in Oxford choose not to go that route. Maybe they don’t want to be Kennett Square. Maybe they like things pretty much as they are now. Maybe they interpreted Mr. Haradon’s enthusiasm as a request for them to change.
We don’t know.
We don’t blame Mr. Herr or the people of Oxford for what appeared to be a sudden action. If the truth be told, perhaps Oxford’s future prosperity lies in a different style of revitalization
All in all, however, Oxford has lost a good man.
And what Mr. Haradon said at the beginning of his job as Mainstreet Manger still rings true: That Oxford is on the cusp of a renaissance. It just needs the right pushes in the right directions to make it happen.