New London - The longtime leader of New London Main Street will be leaving the volunteer-driven organization Aug. 3.
Penny Parsekian, chief executive officer for the nonprofit that promotes downtown businesses and organizes events, gave her notice at Monday's Board of Directors meeting, according to board President Tony Silvestri.
Thursday, Parsekian said she did not want to talk about her imminent departure and that she was focusing on helping organize volunteers for this weekend's Sailfest/OpSail 2012CT event.
"It's all hands on deck,'' she said. "Everyone is making an outstanding effort.''
Parsekian has been with New London Main Street since its inception in 1998.
New London Main Street received national accreditation for the third year in a row in April from the Connecticut Main Street Center in Hartford. Best known for its semi-annual Food Stroll, Main Street organizes between 30 and 35 projects a year, among them a website and a downtown map and guide that includes listings for all key attractions.
One of the group's most noticeable projects was the change of state-sponsored Interstate 95 road signs for local attractions from green to brown, a long process that required coordination with the state Department of Transportation.
The group also organized and erected a synthetic skating rink at The Parade Plaza at the corner of State and Bank streets this past winter to bring visitors to downtown during the winter months.
Under Parsekian's direction, Main Street obtained numerous grants for projects to benefit the city, including a bronze plaque program that identified historic downtown buildings and a gateway project that beautified the entrances to the city.
Some of the projects New London Main Street is working on now include an economic-impact study that will attempt to measure the skating rink's effects on downtown businesses.
Soon after taking office in December, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced he would review all the money the city was contributing to nonprofit groups. Last year, New London contributed about $80,000 to Main Street's $471,000 operating budget. This year, the funding was cut to about $40,000.
Silvestri, Main Street's board president, said the organization was looking to concentrate more on economic enhancement rather than on one-time events.
Parsekian most recently butted heads with the city administration on the cost of hanging promotional banners around downtown. When she was told her organization would have to pay the city around $9,000 to hang up 55 banners, she appealed to the City Council for help. The city had previously not charged for the service.
The city administration eventually gave in and put up the banners for free but said there would be a charge next year.
New London Main Street is one of six designated Main Street organizations in Connecticut.