Welcome Keith Rogers – New City Manager – Rocky Mount, NC – 3/6/23

“You’ve come to the right place that will need your strong leadership and experience to run the Rocky Mount revitalization train straight and true. A walk down Main Street will introduce you to a palate of fine commercial architecture that has an honored past, is under-going restoration and repurposing, and is filled with stories. I recommend the story-telling that is available to you that will capture your heart and tie you to this place filled with wonderful people.

You will have a plethora of people to invite in and sit awhile. Ask them to tell you their version of Rocky Mount’s story. (The railroad, the textiles, tabacco)What it was like being a kid here accompanying their grandmothers downtown to pick up prescriptions, shop for school clothes, attend the movies. There are those that grew up in Villa Place Historical District that remember the maid from Machaven that shooed them off the stone wall. Go and sit outside NABS in the Douglas Block and watch the train go by. I hope you have great imagination, it’s such a handy thing while sitting there to ‘see’ the black community around you. I can tell you how surprised they were to find a white lady who comes and joins them. With imagination it is possible.

With the splendid background/experience you bring, it is the stories of this place that will add to your pleasure and inform your leadership.

Keith Rogers brings a depth of experience to this role,” said Mayor Sandy Roberson. Rogers has a Master’s degree in public administration and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He is a member of the International City Managers Association and the Virginia Local Government Management Association. He is a past adjunct professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU.

You are most fortunate to have waiting for you a group of strong, young, black voices that have planted their flag on Main Street and beyond and though honoring the past, recognize you can’t build a city along racial lines. It is today that matters, building small businesses, creating an environment where the youth of the city can grow and prosper, stay out of trouble, stay fit and have a heart for family, their neighborhoods, and building a future where one day they will want to stay and raise their own families. Meet Zack Poll and Whit Barnes, both on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount who have saved several Main Street buildings. They are another part of this young group that are invaluable to us.

Rocky Mount is filled with faithful people who fill the churches, give generously to helping organizations that reach out to the community. You can turn to the ‘old guys’ that have been the wind under Rocky Mount’s sails with wisdom, institutional knowledge, history. I bet they would let you ride around with them when they check on things and wax poetic about the Rocky Mount world. They may not be up to date with the latest technology but they sure know how to love and support this place, bringing their expertise to the party. I love all of them because of their great hearts.

This blog has a by-line….honoring the past and building a future. Preservation, restoration and repurposing are above all else the candle I light and leave on your desk. The shotgun houses and bungalows are my cry. We have great commercial and residential architecture to put right that will restore safety, pride, neighbors looking out for each other, the village they talk about that is needed to raise a child. (Photo below on Howell St.)

Welcome to this next adventure in your life. Bring all that you have become at this juncture and have at it. A last image. Do you remember from your childhood the movie, Bambi ? When born he is wobbly while getting his legs under him. Rocky Mount is going to be a little wobbly when it comes to Peter Varney retiring again. He is this unique person with a strong moral compass, he’s brilliant, and he has an endless wealth of Rocky Mount City Government knowledge. Don’t let him out of your site while settling in.

I like touching brick walls as a tribute to those who built them, still standing and significant. If I were you, when Peter smiles and walks away the last day, I would put my hand on his back and rest it there as a tribute to him and for you, let it be the beginning of making your mark on Rocky Mount’s future.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s