NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 1, 2023


Southern City is a publication for and about North Carolina municipalities, published quarterly by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Volume 73 Number 1 1st Quarter 2023 Executive Director & Publisher: Rose Vaughn Williams Editor: Jack Cassidy Writer: Ben Brown Writer: Scott Mooneyham Southern City (USPS 827-280) is published quarterly for $25 per year ($2 per year to member municipalities, $1 for single copies) by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. Phone: 919-715-4000 Postmaster: Send address changes to: Southern City 434 Fayetteville Street, Suite 1900 Raleigh, NC 27601 Advertising & Design: Advertising Sales: Ronnie Jacko Design & Layout: Jon Cannon For advertising opportunities and deadlines, contact LLM Publications at 503-445-2234 or ©2023 NC League of Municipalities All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher. PUBLISHED Spring 2023 22 MAYOR SCOTT NEISLER WRAPS UP A REMARKABLE YEAR SOUTHERN CITY

5 INSIDE THIS ISSUE 10 12 16 18 22 24 26 30 33 6 8 40 42 33 30 WRITERS THIS ISSUE BEN BROWN NCLM Communications & Multimedia Strategist JACK CASSIDY NCLM Communications Associate SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination Case Studies in Local Government Housing Efforts Cities and towns are on the forefront of the affordable housing issue. CityVision Heads to Concord for 2023 Conference Three full days of valuable content, networking, and fun. Apex Works Through Community to Make Transformational Investment A citizen-driven process of preparation and prioritization, Apex’s ARP projects are designed for long-term impact. Legislative Leaders Address Crowded Town & State Dinner Event: United Hundreds of Municipal Officials & Lawmakers The strong relationship between local and state leaders on full display at Town & State Dinner. Mayor Scott Neisler Wraps Up a Remarkable Year Succeeding in initiative after initiative, Neisler closes his presidential term having made a significant impact on the NC League. Advancing Advocacy: How We Adapt to Change NCLM’s regular legislative update webinars keep members informed on the most pressing happening at the General Assembly. Always on Call: Managers Make It Happen for North Carolina Cities & Towns The backbone of our state is our cities. And the backbone of our cities is our managers. It’s a task taken up by a select group of dedicated, community-minded public servants. Members Approve Legislative Goals After months of listening sessions, legislative policy committee meetings and finally electronic voting by member cities and towns, the NC League of municipalities approved its legislative goals for the 2023–24 legislative biennium. So, You Want to Commission a Mural? Vibrant and eye-catching, local leaders across North Carolina are looking to murals to enhance their town. Board of Directors Speaking Out Big Achievements by Working Together Taking the Field Town & State and CityVision: A Microcosm of the League in Action Board of Trustees

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 6 MANAGER Tasha Logan-Ford, City Manager High Point IMMEDIATE PAST-PRESIDENT Karen Alexander Mayor, Salisbury SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT Mark-Anthony Middleton Mayor Pro Tem, Durham FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT William Harris Commissioner, Fuquay-Varina PRESIDENT Scott Neisler Mayor, Kings Mountain Board of Directors 2022–2023 WORKING AS ONE. ADVANCING ALL. UNDESIGNATED AFFILIATE REP. Chief Chris Beddingfield, NC Association of Police Chiefs Biltmore Forest DISTRICT 1 Mayor Elizabeth Morey Southern Shores UNDESIGNATED AFFILIATE REP. Commissioner John Ellen, Resort Towns & Convention Cities Kure Beach DISTRICT 11 Council Member Phyllis Harris Mount Holly DISTRICT 2 Council Member Brian Jackson Jacksonville CHARLOTTE Council Member Malcolm Graham DISTRICT 3 Mayor Terry Mann Whiteville DURHAM Council Member Leonardo Williams AT LARGE Mayor Don Hardy Kinston DISTRICT 4 Mayor Jody McLeod Clayton FAYETTEVILLE Council Member Kathy Jensen DISTRICT 5 Council Member TJ Walker Rocky Mount GREENSBORO Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson DISTRICT 6 Council Member Satish Garimella Morrisville CLERK Brenda Blanco, Municipal Clerk New Bern MANAGER Bob Boyette, City Manager Marion DISTRICT 7 Alderman Sona Cooper Spring Lake WINSTON-SALEM Council Member Jeff MacIntosh MANAGER Andrew Havens, Town Manager Duck DISTRICT 8 Mayor Melinda Bales Huntersville PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Neville Hall Eden DISTRICT 9 Mayor Michael Horn Lewisville PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Walter Eccard Shallotte ATTORNEY Karen McDonald, City Attorney Fayetteville DISTRICT 10 Mayor Teross Young, Troutman PRESIDENT’S APPOINTMENT Mayor Dwight Lake Mayodan AT LARGE Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall Albemarle AT LARGE Council Member Owen Thomas Lumberton


SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 8 Wow how time flies! It seems like yesterday that for the first time in two years we had our first in-person CityVision annual conference in Wilmington. It was such an honor taking the oath of office as president of your North Carolina League of Municipalities. Looking back, I see a year of tremendous progress, primarily because we haven’t dealt with some sort of crisis. Focusing instead on our mission of assisting and representing cities and towns across North Carolina. I can sincerely say that the accomplishments of the League and its member cities and towns has never been more closely linked. That is because of how closely we have all worked together with the unprecedent infusion of federal dollars into our communities through direct federal American Rescue Plan Act funding and the additional investments made by our state legislators into our communities. Truly a partnership with the state that I hope and pray will continue. As I look across the state, and speak with my fellow NCLM board members and fellow North Carolina mayors, I know that Kings Mountain is not alone in making these types of transformational investments that will enhance the lives of residents and improve our local economies. From the mountains to the coast, similar investments are being made in waste, sewer, and stormwater projects, in parks and other amenities, and in other ways that are generating more economic activity. In my city of Kings Mountain, that funding is going toward infrastructure that will allow us to expand sewer service, stabilize our water supply reservoir and even leverage additional federal grants for wastewater infrastructure. And I am proud that, over this past year, the League of Municipalities has been with cities and towns that need assistance in how to navigate the complexities of the ARPA grants so that they can get the most from these investments. That work is seen in staff members who meet with local officials directly to answer questions and assist in meeting program requirements, in joint regional meetings with partner organizations that have helped SCOTT NEISLER NCLM President SPEAKING OUT Big Achievements by Working Together to explain the funding and requirements, and in the resources that the League has created and housed on a microsite website, We can also be proud of how the League is publicizing these exciting investments, both through its own publications and through media outreach emphasizing the improvements to our cities and thus our state. It’s a clear strength of our organization, especially as it relates to our initiatives around ARPA and the promotion of lasting, effective investments. The League’s accomplishments over the past year hardly stop there. We have settled property issues regarding our property and are moving forward in establishing a permanent home with a replacement to our League headquarters building. What we will pursue is a facility that will serve the needs of our members for generations to come! We also need to continue to recognize how successful the 2021–22 legislative biennium was and how this is a direct result of our efforts to emphasize our common ground with state legislators. At our 2022 Town & State Dinner, I don’t know that I have ever seen our legislative leaders so relaxed and enjoying themselves, and that is because they see our common purpose and our willingness to work with them. I see that relationship improving even more through our support of a Legislative Municipal Caucus, so that we can even avoid the darts coming from nowhere affecting land-use and other local authority. As my term as president comes to an end, our League of Municipalities is in great hands. It has been a privilege to get to work with and get to know my fellow members of the Board of Directors, League staff, and local officials from across the state committed to improving their communities. I have learned so much from them, as I use that valuable knowledge to serve my citizens in Kings Mountain. So, my time as president has been a fruitful experience. The league lives out its motto, Working as One, Advancing All. I know that that good work will continue into the future!

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 10 ver the last few years, the housing affordability crisis has brought increased scrutiny to local land-use regulation. In the eyes of some critics, zoning is a primary culprit explaining the increase in housing prices. It’s a narrative that ignores the simple economics of supply and demand: that more people want to be closer to the amenities found in cities and urban areas and the jobs that they attract. Really, cities have become victims of their own success. The critics also have ignored how homebuilders see the opportunity for making the most profit by meeting the needs of more affluent home buyers, typically in high-demand areas where land prices are high. What has also been clear for years, is that local city and town councils have been on the forefront of trying to address the need for affordable housing, even as they do so at considerable political risk. In the back-and-forth between the NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) and YIMBYs (Yes in My Back Yard), it has often been local elected officials caught in the crossfire. That hasn’t kept them from looking for innovative ways to try to bring more affordable housing to their cities and towns. Here is a look at a handful of those efforts through a group of case studies that NCLM has compiled. These case studies will be included in a larger, upcoming report from NCLM and the NC Association of County Commissioners examining housing affordability, local regulation, and some possible solutions to help address the problem. RALEIGH: ADUs THAT WORK FOR YOU The City of Raleigh is one of several cities and towns that have recently agreed to allow denser development in traditional single- family only zoned neighborhoods, a move that includes allowing so called accessory dwelling units (ADU), or “granny flats.” In fact, in a survey conducted as part of the larger study referenced above, more than half of municipal and county jurisdictions that responded now allow these free-standing structures built alongside existing homes in their residential zoning areas. Raleigh has gone a step further in attempting to help residents utilize ADUs as a potential solution to housing affordability. Its planners have created 11 pre-approved ADU plans, with the plans costing between $400 and $1,200. While residents will still have to go through a site assessment to ensure setbacks and other regulations are met, building code issues will have already been resolved through the pre-approved plans. This should assist in helping the city meet its goal of doubling the number of ADUs, which polling has indicated are a favored solution among seniors for their housing needs, over the next few years. “ADUs are a small but significant part of the solution to housing affordability. It creates opportunities for folks at all parts of the income spectrum and all parts of the age spectrum,” Pat Young, Raleigh’s Director of Planning and Development, told WUNC Radio. ASHEVILLE: INCENTIVES AND “MICROHOUSING” For over a decade, the City of Asheville has been utilizing its Land Use Incentive Grant program to address housing affordability and encourage the development of new housing. The program works by providing incentives to private developers in which at least 20% of the development’s units are offered to those making 80% or less of the area median income, and with at least 50% of units allowing rental assistance of some type. The grants amounts are then determined based on a points system rewarding affordability. They are paid out as property tax rebates. To date, 11 projects have been awarded the subsidies. The latest is perhaps the quintessential dense development—an 80 unit “microhousing” development in which each unit is only 250 square feet but will have communal kitchen and living areas. The developer describes the project as “reasonably priced workforce housing” with proximity to downtown amenities. APEX/WAKE COUNTY: AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE APARTMENTS In many respects, the Broadstone Walk apartment complex planned near downtown Apex is not very different from many of the developments designed to address housing affordability in communities across the state. These projects typically work only through the careful cooperation of local governments and nonprofit or private developers, with those developers often utilizing tax credits provide by the NC Housing Finance Agency. In the case of Broadstone Walk, Wake County and the Town of Apex provided $7 million in financing to non-profit developer DHIC Inc., that in turn helped it secure other loan financing. The 164unit complex will offer 60 of those units to families making less than 50% of the area median income (AMI). A crucial part of the develop is also its location. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments are near grocery stores and other retail stores, as well as bus transit lines, ensuring that residents have ready access to their workplaces and shopping. WILMINGTON/NEW HANOVER: NEW HOUSING FOR AREAS HIT HARD BY HURRICANES When Hurricanes Florence and Matthew hit eastern North Carolina, the loss of rental housing was substantial, particularly as it affected workers crucial to the local tourism economies. In response, local governments have been working with the state and developers to rebound that rental housing stock. One example is the Starway Village planned for Wilmington. The 278unit multi-family development is being funded with a $9 million award from the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, as well as $3.5 million from the City of Wilmington and $1.89 million from New Hanover County, with both utilizing their ARPA awards. The O LEGISLATIVE UPDATE Case Studies in Local Government Housing Efforts SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination

NCLM.ORG 11 developer, Bradly Housing Developers, is constructing the project on the site of an old drive-in movie theater, which is accessible to nearby shopping and transit routes. Families who make 60% of the area median income (AMI) will be eligible. The project is similar to those taking place in Morehead City and Greenville, which also suffered middle-housing losses due to the storms. HOUSING BONDS: CITIES INVEST IN HOUSING The housing affordability crisis may have become more widespread over the last few years, with smaller communities and those with tourism-based economies now seeing the need for more workforce housing and middle-income housing. Still, it isn’t new, especially in our larger cities. That is why North Carolina’s largest cities and their residents have approved housing bonds— typically by overwhelming majorities—for several years now. Some of the more recent approved bond issues to address housing affordability include, in 2022, $50 million in Charlotte, $30 million in Greensboro, $12 million in Fayetteville, and $40 million in Buncombe County and Asheville; in 2020, $80 million in Charlotte; and in 2018, $95 million in Durham. It is important to understand that these bonds are typically approved in the context of larger housing plans adopted by the cities that are intended improve housing opportunities across lower and middle incomes. Besides direct construction of low-income housing, typically aimed to help those making 30% or less of the local average median income, assistance also can targets middle-income residents with funding for down payments and other assistance. Land banking and other measures are often a part of the housing plans, seeking to leverage private investment than can help a range of residents and the larger economy. In total, these local taxpayer investments have created thousands of additional residential housing units that would not otherwise exist. Legislative Update

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 12 CityVision Heads to Concord for 2023 Conference THREE FULL DAYS OF VALUABLE CONTENT, NETWORKING, AND FUN NCLM STAFF LEAGUE UPDATE t’s the central most exciting and engaging annual event specifically designed for North Carolina’s municipal elected and staff officials. The NC League of Municipalities’ CityVision conference is back for 2023, with three full days of valuable content, more than 20 engaging speaker sessions, four tracks geared toward local government issues, and we’re thrilled that the City of Concord is our host. CityVision 2023 is a not-to-miss opportunity to connect with hundreds of municipal leaders and local government partners during the educational sessions, social events, and exploring all that Concord has to offer. The conference is scheduled for April 25–27 at the Embassy Suites By Hilton Charlotte Concord Golf Resort and Spa. APRIL 25 AND ‘PRE-CONFERENCE’ The main schedule of CityVision activity picks up early-morning April 26 with opening ceremonies and runs through April 27, but this year offers a new “pre-conference” feature one day ahead, on April 25. This pre-conference includes hours of additional educational sessions and a welcome reception. It’s a great way to get a sampling of what the League and CityVision have to offer, including also the invaluable opportunities to network with fellow municipal officials. Members who register for the entire conference get access to the pre-conference sessions for no additional charge. APRIL 26 Following official opening ceremonies and a subsequent networking session the morning of April 26, CityVision’s agenda kicks I continues on page 14

NCLM.ORG 13 League Update

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 14 up with concurrent sessions on popular or verging topics, like the impact of heirs’ property in local government; the power of regional partnerships; incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into your municipal planning decisions; and attracting and retaining employees. Following a luncheon, valuable concurrent sessions continue in the afternoon with topics including leveraging state and federal resources to address infrastructure in your community; how the corporate buyout of housing is affecting municipalities and how they can respond; small town strategic planning and infrastructure; and what to know about municipal employment laws. The ever-popular ice cream networking social follows, and then it’s time for organized tours (registration required) and a bit of exploring of Concord before the always-fun Host City Event, put on by the City of Concord and set for the Cabarrus Brewery Kittle Room at the Gibson Mill—Concord’s community-driven gathering spot. APRIL 27 Attendees can start their morning with exhibit-hall networking and a continental breakfast before more concurrent sessions on timely topics for municipalities. They include federal grants, strategies for focusing on underutilized properties, social districts, and best practices in law enforcement. Other stops along the day include “hot topic” roundtable discussions, exhibit hall networking and door prizes, the League’s luncheon and business meeting and networking dessert social before more enjoyment and exploring in Concord. Various tours (again, registration required) in the mid to late afternoon will include the Concord Motor Speedway, downtown Concord and Kannapolis, and other interesting locations. CityVision culminates with the League President’s Dinner and Awards Ceremony, always a memorable occasion of fellowship, recognition of accomplishments, and the swearing-in of a new League Board of Directors and president. On another note, CityVision is also bringing back its traditional exhibit hall for the first time since before COVID. CityVision is North Carolina’s best opportunity for municipal officials, both elected and staff, to network, learn, and explore sideby-side with fellow officials and partners from around the state. League Update continued from page 12


SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 16 ARP CORNER Apex Works Through Community to Make Transformational Investment A CITIZEN-DRIVEN PROCESS OF PREPARATION AND PRIORITIZATION, APEX’S ARP PROJECTS ARE DESIGNED FOR LONG-TERM IMPACT FAST FACTS Town of Apex Funds Received: $16.75 million Population: 62,900 Key Investments: Water infrastructure, affordable housing, parks, and nonprofit support The message of the American Rescue Plan from local governments has been resoundingly clear: when cities get support, they get the job done. Few places exemplify that more than the Town of Apex, whose structure and strategy has allowed local leaders to quickly and effectively employ more than $16 million towards the community. Apex’s approach is not a new one to the Town. Rather, it’s an extension of its larger philosophy, already very much in place: understand community needs and work to address them. “Our process has put us in a good position towards the situation- changing, large-scale projects,” said Stacie Galloway, Communications Director for the Town of Apex. “It definitely changes the situation for some of these communities.” Some issues are easy to see, such as the significant growth that Apex is experiencing. Just since the 2020 Census, the community has grown by an estimated 7%, creating capacity issues as it relates to infrastructure, primarily water and sewer. Other concerns can be harder to identify and may vary among the local population. Apex finds them through a series of community engagement endeavors. Bringing it all together is the long-term strategy overseen by forward-looking local leaders. Towards ARP, the Town took all of the above into account. The result is a list of projects that meet both short-term needs and long-term goals, all aligned under a strategy informed by the community members themselves. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT, PROCESS, AND INVESTMENT The Town of Apex held multiple listening sessions for community members, both virtual and in-person. They also partnered with Wake County on a county-wide survey. From these efforts, leadership received more than 600 total responses. “From those public engagement sessions, we were able to see what the public was interested in supporting,” said Galloway. With community input received, Apex’s ARP team worked with city department directors to turn those requests into tangible projects, specifically looking at potential investments that had previously been evaluated and identified as important, but had not yet received funding. Apex then prioritized the list to ensure it met the Town’s overall goal for ARP funds, which, as Galloway said, “was to address the impacts of COVID on the Apex community.” The result is a list of projects that comprehensively cover the town. Towards large, macro issues such as infrastructure capacity, Apex made significant investments into its water and sewer capacity, public spaces, and downtown. The Town also addresses affordable housing—another offshoot issue of population growth—with additional funding directed towards local nonprofit organizations. The full list of projects can be seen in Figure 1. Apex’s ability to quickly identify and pursue transformational projects is a testament to its preparation, capacity, and approach. The projects above were not selected on a whim. Rather, they are the culmination of thoughtful, long-term strategic thinking. “A lot of these projects, we’ve been looking at for a while,” said Galloway. “Without these funds, they wouldn’t have been feasible. Now we’re in a position to pursue them.” The American Rescue Plan offers a generational opportunity for our municipalities, not just to recover from the pandemic, but to thrive well into the future. It is this forward-looking aspect of the ARP that is most consequential. How best can we utilize this money to create a lasting impact? All across North Carolina, cities and towns are developing plans and programs specifically geared towards this question, and history shows us that these projects will be successful. When our municipalities receive financial support, they achieve substantial successes. Cities get the job done. This ongoing series will showcase those projects, plans, and transformational investments, both to highlight the end-to-end impressive work of our municipalities and to share best practices with other cities and towns.

NCLM.ORG 17 ARP Corner PROJECT NAME ARPA FUNDING OTHER FUNDING ESTIMATED TOTAL Downtown Improvements $3,000,000 $3,700,000 $6,700,000 Site Acquisition for Affordable Housing $3,000,000 None $3,000,000 Housing Transition for Displaced Communities $1,000,000 None $1,000,000 COVID-19/ARPA Support Staff $400,000 General Fund $400,000 Non-Profit Funding $800,000 None $800,000 West Street Park and Baucom Sewer $1,750,000 None $1,750,000 1.5 MG Eleveated Water Storage Tank $3,600,000 $4,060,000 $7,660,000 Sunset Hills Pump Station $3,510,000 $100,000 $3,610,000 Figure 1.

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 18 Legislative Leaders Address Crowded Town & State Dinner Event: United Hundreds of Municipal Officials & Lawmakers NCLM STAFF More than 500 elected and staff government officials filled the Raleigh Convention Center on Wednesday, Feb. 22, for the fifth installment of the League’s popular Town & State Dinner, uniting municipal and legislative leaders for relationship-building, the talking-through of various timely issues, and to hear updates and perspective from House and Senate majority and minority leaders on the shape of North Carolina. Over a meal, and following a networking social, attendees from areas across the state utilized the occasion to strengthen intergovernmental connections as the General Assembly carries out its annual lawmaking session, which speakers noted can include a wide variety of issues, making ongoing communication between local and state officials essential. “We may not always agree on the exact path, but we all do this to try to make our state better,” said event emcee William Harris, the commissioner from Fuquay-Varina and NCLM Board of Directors first vice-president. Commissioner Harris introduced question- and-answer panels featured over the evening, starting with House Speaker Tim Moore and House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert Reives, moderated by NCLM President and Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler. Mayor Neisler, with Speaker Moore and Rep. Reives seated to his sides, noted the sizable responsibility of public service. “We want to thank you so much for your sacrifice … leaving your families, leaving your businesses, to come up here and serve,” Mayor Neisler said. But during his conversation with the legislative leaders, the importance of sustained ties and fruitful communication between local officials and their lawmakers received as much emphasis. IT WAS ALL ABOUT CONNECTING, COMMUNICATING, AND CELEBRATING THE MANY GREAT OUTCOMES NORTH CAROLINA HAS EXPERIENCED WITH LOCAL-STATE TEAMWORK. continues on page 20

19 Town & State Dinner NCLM.ORG

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 20 “Keep up with what’s going on with us,” Rep. Reives said. He urged local officials to maintain communication channels with their lawmakers for clear understandings of issues or needs, a two-way street. “We don’t know everything, and because we don’t know everything, we’ve got to have folks on the ground that tell us here’s what’s going on with it, here’s what we need, here’s how you can best serve us,” Reives said, noting those might be hard conversations sometimes. “But you’re the folks on the ground touching the communities every day, and there’s nothing more important for us than to get information.” Speaker Moore too urged healthy local-state communication, and has noted his frequent conversations with Mayor Neisler, who lives in Speaker Moore’s district. The speaker also affirmed that all officials have common ground in that they’re working for the best that North Carolina can be. “It is the highest honor that I’ve had, to serve in this role,” Speaker Moore said after Mayor Neisler asked about the challenging nature of General Assembly work. Speaker Moore said there are always endurance-testing days for legislators, “but at the same time, we all know we’re in it—and I know that the folks on the other side of the aisle and the other side of the building—are there for the right reasons, and that is caring about this great state. So, while there’s always those days that are tough, in the end, the good always outweighs those tough times.” Senate leader Phil Berger and the chamber’s minority leader, Sen. Dan Blue, also took the stage for discussion, as moderated by Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton, NCLM’s second vice-president. Sen. Blue pointed out the diversity of North Carolina’s morethan-540 cities and towns. “Each is unique,” Sen. Blue said, adding he has appreciated the help of the League and its member municipal leaders for serving as resources clarifying the nuance and effects of proposals that come forward in context with municipalities. Sen. Berger, a former municipal attorney, gave remarks about topics including infrastructure and the state’s economy. Sen. Berger said that North Carolina’s economic position in relation to other U.S. states is strong, with a bounce-back measured from the hard days of the pandemic. Sen. Berger pointed out that North Carolina today has two million more registered voters than it did 10 years ago, and called that a showing of people planting their roots here to take advantage of all the state has to offer. “We’re probably doing most things better than most other states, and we just need to make sure we continue that as we go forward,” Sen. Berger said. The evening was a rousing success, thanks to the participation of North Carolina’s local and legislative officials and their interest in working toward positive outcomes. “We’ve got north of 500 people attending tonight,” said Mayor Pro Tem Middleton to applause. The League thanks all who attended and engaged with the opportunity to work as one. We may not always agree on the exact path, but we all do this to try to make our state better. continued from page 18 Town & State Dinner

NCLM.ORG 21 continues on page 34

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 22 Mayor Scott Neisler Wraps Up a Remarkable Year JACK CASSIDY NCLM Communications Strategist Per usual, Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler takes the humble road. “I just hope that maybe I did something this year that affected the League in a positive way,” he says, reflecting on an NCLM Presidency that achieved almost nothing but positives. There were the successes with state lawmakers. With the League positioned as a leader on the issues of local government pandemic recovery, Neisler oversaw the creation and early implementation of NCLM’s American Rescue Plan service line, which has guided all 550-plus municipalities through the federal funding process and towards long-term, transformational successes. The North Carolina General Assembly has supported those efforts through generous state funding, and Gov. Roy Cooper shared his gratitude of the League’s leadership in an introductory letter at NCLM’s four-stop, statewide American Rescue Plan Expert Tour this fall, writing, “When we engage collaboratively, we can make the most of the opportunities presented by the ARP. I am grateful to the League for their leadership, in hosting and organizing this tour, and for their ongoing partnership.” There were the successes in determining NCLM’s advocacy priorities and establishing the 2023–24 Legislative Goals. That process, in total, included 10 goal idea listening sessions, 32 small group discussions, and the submissions of 400 ideas and 50 distinct goals. After the thoughtful consideration of the Legislative Policy Committee and the NCLM Board of Directors, the membership overwhelmingly approved the legislative agenda and reaffirmed NCLM’s Core Municipal Principles. And most importantly, there were the successes in bolstering the League as a whole. The activity and accomplishments of the past few years are made all the more impressive considering the circumstances of uncertainty. Neisler and other League leaders played a critical role in ensuring that the organization not only continued its service to cities and towns, but became stronger and more capable along the way. That includes the work done to resolve issues with the NC Association of County Commissioners regarding the League’s downtown Raleigh property—a success that will be felt by League members for decades to come. “The thing I am most proud of is how the League morphed into what it needed to be,” said Mayor Neisler. “Even through the crisis, we were there, and we were whatever our 550 towns needed us to be.” As both League President and mayor, Neisler sees both sides of the organization—both the inner workings and the external applications. On the League side, that unique perspective has helped inform his leadership and his guidance of League offerings. And on the city side, it’s helped him appreciate the services. “The League is successful cause it’s appropriate for today. It’s a service organization that really does provide service,” said Neisler. “The cities that are a part of the League get so much out of it—so many benefits. And, and that’s what we have to continue to do in the future. We have got to be appropriate for the needs of the cities of North Carolina. And we’ve done that very, very successfully.” All of Neisler’s successes—the strength of the League, the strength of its state-level relationships and the strategic vision of the legislative advocacy efforts—were on full display during both the 2022 and 2023 Town and State Dinners. Due to some scheduling peculiarities in the wake of the pandemic, Mayor Neisler had the opportunity to take part each year, as he presided over the dinner in 2022 and interviewed the NC House of Representatives’ leadership in 2023. Between the two events, nearly 1,000 local leaders and state lawmakers attended. “It showcased the standing of NCLM on the state level,” said Neisler. At NCLM’s annual conference CityVision in April, Neisler will handoff the role of NCLM President and move into the position of immediate past president. While the tenure itself may be ending, the impacts of his work will reverberate for a long time across North Carolina. “I’m sort of melancholy in a way. But I’m also so proud,” said Neisler. “It’s been an honor to serve the NC League of Municipalities, and it’s been an honor to serve our cities and towns.” SUCCEEDING IN INITIATIVE AFTER INITIATIVE, NEISLER CLOSES HIS PRESIDENTIAL TERM HAVING MADE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE NC LEAGUE. The thing I am most proud of is how the League morphed into what it needed to be. Even through the crisis, we were there, and we were wherever our 550 towns needed us to be.

NCLM.ORG 23 Board Profile: Mayor Scott Neisler

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 24 Advancing Advocacy: How We Adapted to Change SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination If the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced one idea throughout society, it is that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. That adage was seen in how people adjusted to the loss of the ability to meet and converse in-person, especially in large gatherings, with examples springing up everywhere—whether in remote work environments, new types of shopping experiences, or even outdoor worship services. For an organization like NCLM, where meeting with local elected and appointed officials to understand and then attempt to address the challenges of cities and towns, the change of circumstances was especially tough. But we adapted. And one of the early ways that we did so was through the creation of our virtual advocacy meeting series, Advancing Advocacy. It has now been nearly three years since NCLM’s Government Affairs staff held the first of these virtual meetings in the early April of 2020. At the time, then-NCLM Grassroots Associate Christine Heubusch told those attending: “As you may know, we plan on continuing this virtual briefing, which we call Advancing Advocacy, each week at the same time for the foreseeable future. With less faceto-face contact, we hope to utilize this time to provide you with the information needed to continue to be key advocates on behalf of cities. These are unpredictable times, but we know that a lot of decisions that are going to be coming from Raleigh and Washington over the next several weeks are going to be important to our recovery and to the future of your town, and we are committed to being there to get the best results possible.” It was a crucial time for municipalities, facing the uncertainty of what might happen to revenue streams from sales taxes, utility NCLM’S REGULAR LEGISLATIVE UPDATE WEBINARS KEEP MEMBERS INFORMED ON THE MOST PRESSING HAPPENINGS AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

NCLM.ORG 25 fees and occupancy taxes, and how state and federal policy makers would respond. With such uncertainty in the air, the virtual meetings began as weekly events. And the participation of representatives of member cities and towns clearly demonstrated the need. Early on, virtual attendees numbered between 200 and 300. The information discussed was seen as vital. There were presentations on the impact of the pandemic on economic activity and local budgets, the federal CARES Act and how it was being administered, state legislative efforts addressing budget challenges, and NCLM letter-writing and other advocacy actions to communicate municipal needs. Outside presenters were also a part of the plan, with topics ranging from how the U.S. Census count would work in a pandemic landscape, how the restaurant and lodging industry saw the economic challenges, and the possible paths of economic recovery. Of course, eventually the effects of the pandemic eased, and society began to return to some sense of normalcy. Advancing Advocacy, though, has continued. The necessities of 2020 have created what is now seen as an effective and ongoing addition to our advocacy-related communication. While the need and circumstances no longer necessitate every-week sessions, or garner those 200-plus attendees, the more spread-out sessions still see 60 to 100 League members attending. And our staff still sees these sessions as an effective way to communicate with you about the important happenings at the General Assembly and elsewhere affecting municipal-related public policy. So, keep on looking out for notifications of the meetings, and keep attending so that we can keep working together to advance the collective needs of North Carolina’s cities and towns. Advancing Advocacy


NCLM.ORG 27 Some days, its strategic steps, planned and plotted and pursued with a long-term vision of what a city can become. Other days, it’s just the immediate—just the crises. “Depends on the day,” says High Point Manager Tasha Logan Ford, laughing. “I’m intentional in planning goals for each day, organizing the broader objectives of our Council into steps our staff team needs to execute, but I also have to be flexible to respond to what may be waiting as the day breaks. Many times, the plan has changed before making it to the office.” To be a manager is to tackle both and to not know which is coming. The job seems to be one of both optimism and perseverance— of both racing between fires and muscling through problems. In both cases, it’s about finding solutions, consistency, relationship building, and carrying a message of hope. As difficult as it rightfully appears, a class of professionals all across North Carolina take up the mantle as a career. They’re not the face of their town, but they might be the backbone. Managers are the CEOs of local government. They come from a variety of public service backgrounds. Some rise through the ranks of a single city. More commonly, others serve a number of towns. Logan Ford began her career in Goldsboro, rising to the ranks of assistant city manager before taking the same position in the larger jurisdiction of Winston-Salem. Her background is purely administrative, working primarily in managers’ offices. Others work their way through budget departments or planning departments or, as a more recent trend, community development departments. Each come with their own unique experiences and skill sets, but only the role itself can provide the full load of responsibilities. The job title is familiar to most. The inner, day-to-day workings are somewhat harder to see, though they’re by no means a secret. Like most public service jobs, it just gets done, with little fame or fanfare. It starts for Tasha Logan Ford with a read through the local newspapers and a glance through Google Alerts. “Before I come into the office, I like to have an idea of what’s going on in the community and to get a pulse of what people might be talking about globally.” From there, it transitions to the operational needs of every single day: housing, police, fire, garbage collection, water, and sewer, just to name a few. Perhaps, most notable in the responsibilities of a city manager is the relationship with the governing board. As the key connection between an elected body and city staff, the manager oversees far more than just administrative duties. They also serve in a communications role, a support role, and many times, a strategic role. “The job is whatever it needs you to be on a given day,” says Logan Ford. “To be successful in the job, it requires presence of mind in each situation, a significant investment of time, trust, and grace.” Step foot in any collegiate public administration course, and the first lesson you’ll hear is this: for a public organization to succeed, they must understand and respond to their stakeholders. Managers are the embodiment of that guidance. Logan Ford, recapping just a single week, notes that she had meetings with her staff, the local chamber of commerce, several foundations and nonprofits, and, of course, the High Point City Council. Other weeks bring different audiences. At the same time, citizens voice their concerns and needs, and Logan Ford must position the staff team to be responsive to them as well. In High Point, city leadership is able to address both long-term and short-term needs through a team structure. Logan Ford often relies on her executive team to take on the day-to-day operations, which allows her to fully engage the litany of stakeholders—all of whom have a part to play in the strategic direction of the city. “It requires a team committed to the core values of this organization and the broader community,” Logan Ford says. “We seek to strike the right balance, by engaging with our elected body to build consensus around a set of common goals and then executing through the talent of our employees.” Even with ample support, managers are involved with all city business and it can lead to one of the pitfalls of the job: burnout. The daily emails number in the hundreds, as do the weekly phone calls, and few if any workdays end at 5pm. NCLM’s Heather James sees the weight of the role firsthand. As the League’s Manager for Operational Outreach, James runs the League’s interim manager program, which places retired municipal managers temporarily in manager-less towns. The program ensures continuity of service and provides the town with additional time to recruit for the position. And in recent years, demand for the program has increased. “It’s a really, really difficult job. It is 24/7,” James said of town managers. “Those with families, aging parents, anything outside of work—it can be hard to balance that.” As with many public sector roles across the state and country, recruiting and retaining employees has been a challenge since the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s especially true for managers, who tout an executive-level skillset, supervise large staffs, and direct large and complex budgets. That’s a background with obvious appeal in any industry. It is not uncommon to see managers get recruited to the private sector. Before I come into the office, I like to have an idea of what’s going on in the community and to get a pulse of what people might be talking about globally. » Tasha Logan Ford, High Point Manager continues on page 29 Always On Call

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 28 These managers are so committed to the profession because they’ve seen what success looks like in our towns. Once you get one success you want to continue getting more and more. Even minor changes can be huge for a town. None of them are there for the money. They’re community driven. » Heather James, Manager for Operational Outreach, NCLM Tasha Logan Ford sits with the High Point City Council. NCLM’s Heather James works throughout the state to help manager-less towns find interim support. Always On Call

NCLM.ORG 29 And still, despite that competition, North Carolina hosts a dedicated core of municipal managers. James sees it through the interim program and the retired managers that continue coming back to help communities. “These managers are so committed to the profession because they’ve seen what success looks like in our towns,” said James. “Once you get one success you want to continue getting more and more. Even minor changes can be huge for a town. None of them are there for the money. They’re community driven.” Logan Ford notes the same motivation. Through the state’s many managers and their different personalities and different towns in which they work, the element that binds the group is consistent to a person: the desire to watch a community prosper and to have a hand in that success. “I’m in public service because I care about the community. I fundamentally believe we can create spaces where people can use their talents to define their version of success, be successful in a way that is meaningful to them and support the broader economic vitality of the region. I want to see a community that’s thriving. I want to see a community that’s creating their own sense of identity with growing businesses and community ties that bind. In High Point, we will attract generational investments and residents who feel they can be successful,” says Logan Ford. “There’s nothing personal in it for me. It is about being able to leave this environment—whether it’s my community environment or the environment of my organization—in a better position than it was when I found it. That is what motivates me every day and gets me excited about the work we do.” “Those who stay in this work do so because they want their community to be successful. It’s adaptive work and Managers are committed to that ideal and the process to make it happen.” continued from page 27 Always On Call

SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 1 2023 30 Members Approve Legislative Goals SCOTT MOONEYHAM NCLM Director of Political Communication & Coordination AFTER MONTHS OF LISTENING SESSIONS, LEGISLATIVE POLICY COMMITTEE MEETINGS, AND FINALLY ELECTRONIC VOTING BY MEMBER CITIES AND TOWNS, THE NC LEAGUE OF MUNICIPALITIES APPROVED ITS LEGISLATIVE GOALS FOR THE 2023–24 LEGISLATIVE BIENNIUM. From 408 municipal goal proposals submitted through this process, falling into 50 distinct subject matter areas, 155 cities and towns approved a top 10 list of goals that now make up NCLM’s final legislative agenda. Not surprisingly, infrastructure-related goals were again a top priority, closely followed by proposals involving keeping cities and towns financially healthy. Housing and law enforcement training were also top concerns of North Carolina’s municipal leaders. Of course, to turn these priorities into successful achievements, and get them passed into law, will not be easy. It never is. But it is important to note that the broad involvement of a diverse array of cities and towns, and their elected and appointed leaders, helps to make the case at the General Assembly that these goals represent the priorities of the municipalities in legislators’ districts, no matter where they live. “Hundreds of cities and towns and their officials from across North Carolina gave their input and prioritized these legislative goals. These goals truly reflect the top priorities of all our cities and towns, whether small or large, and achieving them will move our economy even further ahead,” said Erin Wynia, NCLM’s Director of Government Affairs. In addition to the voting, 111 officials from cities and towns participated in various in-person and virtual discussions, while the 65-member Policy Committee and NCLM Board of Directors played key roles in considering and narrowing priorities and developing goal language. As the legislative session heats up, expect to see legislation that encompasses some of the aims of these goals. Some, especially those in the area of infrastructure, could show up in provisions in a state budget bill. Others may come in the form of standalone bills. Whatever the case, the advocacy of NCLM members will continue to be needed to try to gain legislative support. As always, that will involve individual conversations with legislators, as well as making the case through other forms of communication and even in formal committee hearings. With that in mind, here are the member-approved 10 Legislative Goals for 2023–24, along with the subject areas approved by the League Board of Directors, and some brief talking points that can be used to demonstrate their importance to the challenges faced by North Carolina’s cities and towns. RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE Create an adequate and permanent funding stream for local infrastructure. • Infrastructure—including roads, water, sewer, stormwater, parks, and beaches—is critical to economic development and job creation. • Many cities in the state are growing, creating a constant need for investment to keep pace with population growth; many cities and towns also have aging infrastructure that must be replaced. • Creating more permanent funding streams for local infrastructure, such as a dedicated tax source, would allow for better planning to meet needs. Expand state transportation funding streams for construction and maintenance for municipal and state-owned secondary roads. • Current Powell Bill and other state funding is not adequate to address transportation needs, particularly as they affect municipal and state-owned secondary roads. WORKING AS ONE. ADVANCING ALL.