Rocky Mount’s Lone Ranger – Lige Daughtridge – In The Saddle and Ready to Ride

You are familiar with The Lone Ranger, a fictional masked former Texas Ranger who fought outlaws in the American Old West with his Native American friend, Tonto. This character became an enduring icon of our American culture. He is a perfect foil for our Lone Ranger, Lige Daughtridge!

Lige has acted as the Lone Ranger for Rocky Mount for a long time. I have watched him rise from his seat, papers in hand, and walk to the microphone in the Council Chambers, to speak on behalf of the taxpayers. Click on William Tell Overture Finale and have a laugh with me.

This is the music I connect with the new Councilman in Ward 5 who replaces Tom Rogers. A businessman, with a long respected family name in Rocky Mount, Lige has kept watch over the affairs of the city government and work of the Council for years. He has brought his education, passion, and experience to this moment of winning his election. We have cause for celebration knowing this reasoned, bright and articulate man, who has served Rocky Mount in many capacities and helped shape the dialogue over many issues, now has a vote!


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The Big Winners – Kevin Jones and Tarrick Pittman

“If your actions inspire others to dream more,                                                                                 learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
John Quincy Adams

Young, smart, articulate, confident, engaging, well-educated, each with personal inspiring stores to tell, Kevin Jones and Tarrick Pittman were big winners on Tuesday.  When you add to that mix the hearts they have to raise people up, especially our youth,  you recognize how fortunate Rocky Mount is to have their commitment to the future.

They both have to be exhausted and disappointed. They worked tirelessly to meet and greet, shake hands, smile, tap dance, and hopefully, find laughter along the way. I know they don’t regret a moment of this effort. They emerged clear winners! What was impressive to me was the plans they clearly put forth to make Ward 1 a better place and all of Rocky Mount. At the ECC Forum, they stood, they spoke, they were prepared, they had at it, and walked away with the respect and admiration of the audience. We can build a future on the likes of these two gentlemen. Integrity intact, having conducted themselves admirably, we congratulate them both on inspiring others to believe that they too can make a difference. I click my heels and salute you. 


“Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart



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Big Change Ahead – October 8th – Keep Breathing and Believing

As for the election on Oct. 8th-have you voted? With all the talk and speculation, worry and who to believe, it feels at times like waiting for the umpire’s call after the slide into home plate just as the ball hits the catchers glove! Every little something means something even if it doesn’t. Like – look how worried the incumbent in Ward 1 is with all his tactics. Now that’s true!

Someone on Concerned Citizens posed a ‘what if’ question. I put my preacher robes on and answered. I forgot to say what I keep telling myself, keep breathing and believing!

SFH Answer: I knew a little boy years ago that came up with an expression I’ve used ever since.  “Don’t borrow a worry!” I will add what Julian of Norwich said, “All will be well, all matter of things shall be well.” These two notes from today’s sermon a few days before the election.

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FYI: The Premise of Urban Planning: A Master Plan – A Road Map to Success


Welcome Back! Guest Blogger, Rodd Myers.  With a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning, a focus on business and public administration from the University of Michigan, Rodd writes from considerable experience.


The premise of urban planning and a master plan is that downtown should be walkable, integrated, open-air and multiuse. A successful master plan provides features where people gather to shop, eat and live. Frequently offices, hotels, civic, and cultural properties unite the master plan.

The underlying principle is that to succeed a downtown must evolve into a dense, compact, and diverse part of a neighborhood and community with strong connections to its surroundings. Thus, retail, offices, governmental buildings, hotels, businesses, and civic structures, while an integral part of the neighborhood, do not complete a neighborhood. Only housing that is within walking, biking or a short driving distance builds the strong connections that are vital to success. The current landscape of downtown Rocky Mount lacks the critical connectors that a successful master plan implements. While there are numerous empty buildings that could house the necessary features mentioned above—those buildings lie empty either dilapidated or in ruin due to politics and neglect.

Blocks of housing also exist within walking and biking distance of downtown. However, much of it needs rehabilitation or sits empty, once again, due to politics and neglect. Add to that the maze of one-way streets (an urban panning negative) that make it difficult to navigate the downtown area easily. There is one more barrier that looms larger than the rest but cannot be changed -the railroad tracks that bisect downtown Rocky Mount. The railroad tracks coupled with the number of trains passing through often bock traffic for long periods of time.

Stepheny & Rodd
Florida – Touring Mix-use success stories in FL.

A master plan confronted with issues of this nature requires creative solutions that integrate the barriers into the plan. For instance, a couple of strategically placed architecturally pleasing pedestrian/bike bridges. The master plan must also address the inventory of business and housing structures, their condition and how they fit into the plan.

The master plan must articulate what is salvageable, what is not and the highest and best use of each structure as it relates to the plan. The plan must provide budgets and vehicles for financing. Typically, financing is a mix of federal, state and local funds. The private sector must step up as well—paying back taxes, using their own funds to maintain their property and encouraging other business and homeowners to do the same. Why then is Rocky Mount so deprived of a viable downtown? We know the buildings lie in disrepair with extensive water and mold damage. We know there is some sort of plan for downtown, but it has not been passed by the Council. We know that an extensive and accurate inventory of structures and their condition is not completed. We know that a city divided by tracks is not a deal-breaker but where corruption, lack of responsibility and poverty are involved, the ‘other side of the tracks’ has additional significance to the success of a plan.

SFH: It is an absolute necessity for city planners and those whose responsibility it is to preserve and protect our architectural assets, to follow a plan. In our case, one that has never been voted upon along with The Ratio Plan, We follow a plan that members of the Council dream up. Lately, a mix-used hotel/parking garage, a piece meal approach. I have provided a link above to look at what experts in the field of urban planning provide: a roadmap to success.  A plan best administered by trained and educated leadership in this matter. Don’t miss the point that it is nearby housing that is vital to success after determining the best use of the structure and how it relates to the plan. 

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Hiding Behind The Word Gentrification – An Excuse for Inaction

The other night at ECC,  the candidates were asked about gentrification,  Ward 3 candidate Gwen Wilkins went to the heart of the matter. “You have to ask yourselves, ‘How are we going to fix the abandoned, boarded-up housing if we don’t rebuild if we don’t remodel? People don’t want to leave their neighborhoods and I will fight to keep them there — but those abandoned, boarded-up houses need to be remodeled, they need to be redone or they need to be torn down.”

Wikipedia basically says: Gentrification is a process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses, which can force out low-income residents due to the increased cost of rent and higher cost of goods. Gentrification can shift a neighborhood’s racial/ethnic composition.

This description of gentrification is more appropriate for a phenomena that takes place in a large city like Chicago, filled with different ethnic neighborhoods. Contrast Chicago’s 2.7 million residents to Rocky Mount, NC population of  54,242, the 17th largest city in NC. Ours is a small area of manageable consequences. It is an unworkable tenant to contrast a large urban city like Washington, DC, as mentioned the other night at the Forum, and infer that what happens there will happen here.

The word gentrification has become stigmatized. The negative connotation of this word is a convenient excuse for inaction and further skullduggery behind the scenes by those with their thumbs in the pie. When pressed, there is a button on a blinking sign that says, Displacement! If you think that’s wrong,  so is the state of neglect our earliest housing stock is in.

Gentrification will not have a strong negative impact on Rocky Mount. There is sufficient evidence now to prove that gentrification does not equate with automatic displacement. Restoring our neighborhood housing in Rocky Mount will significantly improve the economy and quality of life for many people in low-income areas. It encourages home ownership, and lowers crime. John Kennedy is credited with saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” If that is true so is the fact that we already have a substantial amount of the housing that is needed. If saving our neighborhoods becomes a priority, the lives of those the politicians say they care about, will change. You’ll love this…..I found in my research that there is now a more accurate term being used in communities like ours. Rather than gentrification, they are calling it revitalization.                                                                                

Take A Minute to Read Two Earlier Posts:                                                                               Gentrification and Displacement in Rocky Mount -#1

Part #2

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Count Down to the Election -Thirteen Days! -‘Striding Forward With Growing Confidence’ Or Not?

John Gilbert Winant

I have been keeping company with a man that first captured my attention while reading the book, Citizens of London by Lynne Olson. (I’m reading it again.) His name was John Gilbert Winant and among many things, he was United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom after Joseph  Kennedy went home. He served Roosevelt and Truman. He was a Republican governor and chair of the Social Security Board. This is only a part of his story, but it helps to place him in a setting.

I have pursued Winant with further reading. He must have been a remarkable man. All these years later, he is certainly relevant again to me, and I’m sure to others who met him for the first time, as I did, when reading, Citizens. If you are of a certain age, you are familiar with the cast of characters that surrounded his life; the world they influenced became our world. The likes of Roosevelt, Churchill, A. Harriman, and fascinating others. He spent decades focused on social justice and the creation of a better life for workman and women throughout the world.

With thirteen days left until the election, we turn to Winant. After all the rhetoric and social media videos, and declarations of intentions, speeches, appearances, walking the street, politics at its worst and best, we hope those elected rise to the occasion and become the best they can be. Choosing the right canidate has centered on the issues of  jobs, and housing, economic drivers,  innovation and creativity. Besides looking for a plan and VISION, there is something we hope for that matters more.

The following is taken from a speech Winant made in Durham, England in 1942 to four hundred delegates, representing thousands of striking coal minors. Several hours after the speech, the delegates voted to go back to work.

“We must always remember,” he said, “that it is the things of the spirit that in the end prevail. That caring counts. That where there is no vision, people parish. That hope and faith count, and that without charity there can be nothing good. That by daring to live dangerously, we are learning to live generously. And that by believing in the inherent goodness of man, we may meet the call of your great Prime Minister and ‘stride forward into the unknown with growing confidence.”

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Crashing On the Rocks of City Government

The Siren call lures nearby sailors to crash upon the rocks of the islands of dangerous creatures. It is their enchanting music and singing that calls them. I am lured by the story of Main Street and the significance of commercial and residential architecture. The corollary danger for me started with my research and learning. The more people that took me under their wing to talk, the more I grew to love the possibilities, I ended up crashing on the rocks of City Government. I found that possibilities are mismanaged, certain members of the City Council rig the system, talented and good people leave or are pushed out, and we have an investigation into maleficence and the skullduggery of leadership that casts a wide net of consequences.

Crashing on these rocks, my writing on the Main Street blog shifted to finding answers that explain the state of things downtown and in the surrounding areas of neglect. I hate having to grapple with the possibility that we will never have real prosperity in Rocky Mount, that is the prosperity of spirit in people’s lives because of complacency, unwillingness to risk change, and worst of all, people who are gaming the system for their own benefit.

The longer we hesitate to call out, name, remove, allow further deterioration of our buildings and housing, the further down the rabbit hole we go. Waiting is not soon enough for those who long for a decent life with an opportunity to lift themselves up. I’m talking about job availability for those willing to work hard after receiving a decent education. Waiting for a future in the sweet by and by shouldn’t be necessary with elected leaders, who are committed to Rocky Mount and a better life for people. The answer begins with your VOTE! Until we hold accountable those we have given the power to make a difference, Rocky Mount will continue to be sabotaged by self-interest, mismanagement, and greed.

The Masonic Temple on Church Street

I want us to be about: saving Mainstreet, the at-risk neighborhoods, restoring and repurposing, creating pride of ownership that promotes safety in our neighborhoods where people look out for one another. I want those who have made a mistake to have a job when entering back into society. I want a tour of our saved shotgun houses and a reason for people to return to Rocky Mount where they grew up. I want the Masonic Building on Church Street to become a boutique hotel, the Carlton House, one of our historic places, back in business. I want to stroll down Howard Street and sit at a cafe table talking to those who walk by. I want to see couples holding hands walking down Main Street headed to restaurants and coffee shops. People shopping and making memories with their grandchildren. I want to see all the entrepreneurs that took a chance on Rocky Mount rewarded for their belief, working hard to make their dreams come true in this place.

A Restored Shot Gun House

Like it or not, life is about politics, especially now. It is essential that the Councilman in Ward 1, after sixteen years, is replaced with Tarrick Pittman who brings a new vision. This is a great opportunity to vote for the new leadership that is running for the open seats in Wards 3,4,5. We want a new Major who has the experience to create jobs and understands the necessity of a trained work force. Be aware of those who sing the Sirens song again.  It’s election time and suddenly, “I care about you.”  I hope you agree we have had enough of crashing on the rocks of City Government.

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