Time to Discuss the Position of Rocky Mount’s Downtown Development Manager

I’m late, I’m late for
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye,
I’m late, I’m late, I’m late

-Alice in Wonderland 

Public Relations Director Kirk Brown said earlier,”August 1, ’22 is the target date to have the Downtown and Business Development staff in place at 132 S.W. Main, to start serving the public.”

I’m told that this delayed opening is because of the scheduled delivery date for the office furniture before we can get this show on the road. I think having the Development Office on Main Street is essential. I love the restored facade of this classic commercial building in the photo above. The best possible staff is key to marketing downtown’s possibilities, a monumental responsibility.

This post is about the evolving qualifications for the job of a Downtown City Manager. The anticipated uptick from the relocation of the office will only happen with a Downtown Development Manager and staff that are equipped to manage the complexities of a new understanding; the breathe of preservation and its impact on the revitalization of any Main Street.

I wasn’t happy when the position of DDM was not announced to the public for applicants. Instead, the past City Manager shuffled the deck chairs on the ship to fill the job. Mr. Kevin Harris, who holds the position now, was first hired by the City of Rocky Mount with 30 years of banking/financial experience and a fine resume. He is a likable fellow. He has always been cordial and welcoming to me.

The job he now holds has evolved over time and from learning what works and doesn’t. It now calls for specific qualifications that presume a focused education and experience in order to qualify for consideration for the job.

I picked Thomasville, NC, as an example of their evolving approach to downtown development. In this selection, it was important that the town is dedicated to revitalizing a downtown through the utilization of the Main Street America’s structure for revitalization. Here is their qualifications list.

The program director should have education and/or experience in one or more of the following areas of study:
• Architecture;
• Historic preservation;
• Economics;
• Finance;
• Public Relations;
• Design;
• Journalism;
• Planning;
• Business Administration;
• Entrepreneurship;
• Public Administration;
• Retailing; and/or
• Volunteer or non-profit administration/ and or small business development.
The Manager must be sensitive to design and preservation issues. The Manager must understand the issues confronting downtown business people, property owners, public agencies, and community organizations.

The Manager must be entrepreneurial, energetic, imaginative, well organized, and capable of functioning effectively in an independent situation.

You would have to be a superman or woman to have all these skill sets under their belt. Therefore, you build a team carefully to bring to the table as many of the necessary skills as possible from the desired training and experience list.

Here is a mission statement that supports the main objective of having a Downtown Development Office: to foster a healthy, thriving economy, takes an active role in revitalizing through expanded cultural programming, promotion of the region, recruitment of new businesses, grant-seeking for restoration projects, and education and outreach for local businesses.

I have added an additional list of qualifications from my perspective:



+Appreciation and knowledge, downright love, of historic commercial architecture in downtown areas

+A deep commitment to Preservation, Restoration and Repurposing

+A willingness to pursue businesses to locate in Rocky Mount

+The Development Office attitude ….”We will help you make this happen” and mean it.

+Paramount to successful downtown development, a commitment to the NC Main Street Program with the goal of winning back our accreditation.

This particular blog is not about criticism but has everything to do with the reality that looks at development through the lens of the vast preservation movement. Development now demands that those involved are equipped by their specific education and experience in this complex matter. I hope that the Chamber of Commerce will continue their discussions and support of Tierra Norwood along with others who have knowledge in this matter. We should pursue our affiliation with the Main Street Program that is a successful, proven organization in the field of development and renewal. Let us all recognize and acknowledge this valuable asset, MAIN STREET, and look for the particular leadership in this field that is equipped for success.

One thought on “Time to Discuss the Position of Rocky Mount’s Downtown Development Manager

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s