AUGUSTA — The Augusta Downtown Alliance is kicking off the search for a downtown manager to replace Steve Pecukonis, who left his post in late September after nearly two years on the job.

“It’s a bummer to see Steve go,” said Tobias Parkhurst, who is the incoming alliance board chairman and who is heading up the search committee.

Parkhurst said the alliance hopes to have a new director in place by the end of the year, following a national search.

“We want someone who will bring creative ideas to turn downtown Augusta into the downtown we want it to be,” he said.

Pecukonis was hired two years ago as the alliance’s inaugural executive director and stepped down from daily work in late September. He’s using his accumulated vacation time. Before coming to work in Augusta, he had been a self-employed management consultant, and he had also been a facilitator of the Kennebec Leadership Institute, a program of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the University of Maine at Augusta that trains community-minded leaders.

The Augusta Downtown Alliance is a volunteer organization whose goal is developing a thriving downtown community. It is funded through donations and long-term commitments from businesses and the city of Augusta.

Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo said Friday that the Augusta Downtown Alliance has been a creative force for the preservation and redevelopment of Augusta’s downtown.

“And the Augusta downtown’s vitality is key to the success of our community,” he said. “We indeed have a significant interest in seeing it succeed.”

Parkhurst said Pecukonis has a good reputation in Augusta, has done a good job and is leaving on good terms.

Pecukonis could not be reached for comment.

When he was hired two years ago, Pecukonis, a Brunswick resident, was selected from among 19 candidates. At the time, he said he believed people were ready to return to downtowns from the suburbs, something he described as “a return of people to service-center communities.”

Recently he was on hand to help deal with a downtown problem. An out-of-state landlord said he would not make improvements to the building at 275-287 Water St., forcing three businesses to close. Gagliano’s Italian Bistro, Patricia Buck Bridal and the Forbidden Fruit retail shop didn’t have to move their inventory out and were permitted to enter the building themselves, but they were not allowed to let customers in or continue to run their businesses at those locations. Pecukonis, quoted in an Aug. 25 story, said the building could be a “showpiece” for the downtown if it is renovated and brought up to code.

He also worked on an event to draw people to downtown to commemorate the Great Fire of 1865, which wiped out nearly all of downtown. The September event included historical exhibits, vintage fire equipment and the closure of Water Street for about four hours.

As the search for his replacement gets under way, the organization’s work continues. The Augusta Downtown Alliance will hold its annual meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at The Gin Mill, at 302 Water St., to talk about its work plan.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ