After spending two years helping to create The Newark Partnership, Leann Moore is now taking on a bigger role with the organization.

On Monday, she started work as TNP’s first executive director. She will be charged with building up the nonprofit’s membership, raising funds and continuing to grow awareness of the organization.

“Being able to dedicate a significant portion of my life to this is going to make for a really good opportunity to make the financials more sustainable and to really expand our network and our bandwidth,” Moore said. “So I’m just really excited to be able to dive in headfirst and be able to do some really exciting things.”

A successor to the more narrowly defined, business-focused Downtown Newark Partnership, the TNP was officially founded in 2019 after several years of planning. Unlike its predecessor, TNP is an independent nonprofit that operates outside the auspices of the city government.

Aiming to serve all of Newark, the organization is like a “three-legged stool,” as Moore described it. Its three core functions include promoting economic development similar to a chamber of commerce, serving as a resource hub for area nonprofits and promoting civic engagement.

During its startup phase, TNP received administrative support from the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration employees, including Moore and others.

Moore said that through IPA, she spent about 30 percent of her time on TNP and the rest on other projects, including strategic planning for municipalities and mediation for state entities. Prior to joining IPA, she worked as a legislative aide for the Delaware House of Representatives.

A native of Bear, Moore graduated from Caravel Academy and UD and later earned a master’s in public administration, focusing on nonprofit management, from UD. She recently moved to Brookside, where she bought a house across the street from her grandmother’s.

Polly Sierer, chair of TNP’s board, said the board interviewed seven candidates, including several from out of state.

“Leann clearly stood out for all of us because she has extensive experience in strategic planning, she has a lot of experience in grant writing and grant applications, which is going to be very important to TNP, and she also has experience working with other boards,” Sierer said. “And she’s familiar with Newark.”

Now able to focus on TNP full-time, Moore said her priorities include writing a strategic plan for the organization, applying for grants and seeking more donors.

TNP was created with seed money from the city and UD. While officials hope both entities will continue to be a partner, the organization aims to sustain itself through sponsorships from large companies and membership fees.

The nonprofit was gearing up for a membership drive when the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans, but its membership already includes 50 business, 40 nonprofits and 63 individuals.

An individual membership is $15. For now, it’s just a way of supporting the organization, but Moore said the organization plans to start holding member-only networking events and developing other perks for members.

During the pandemic, TNP has found success holding events over Zoom, such as the Knowing Newark series that spotlights aspects of Newark history and culture, and community conversations that feature speakers talking on current events, like pandemic recovery and race relations. Some of those events have drawn more than 100 participants, Moore said.

It also organized Restaurant Week and partnered with the city for the popular Main Street Alfresco outdoor dining events. Once the pandemic wanes, TNP is looking forward to holding larger in-person events for the community.

The organization’s long-term goal is to have a physical office somewhere in Newark, but that is likely years away. For now, Moore is working from home.

Sierer said the hiring of a full-time executive director marks a new chapter for TNP.

“It’s just one step of many of TNP becoming an integral part of the Newark community,” she said.

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