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CityVision brings hundreds together to chart our tomorrow 

by: Jessica Wells, NCLM Communications Specialist

More than 1,000 gathered in Greensboro for the League’s annual conference, CityVision 2014. CityVision 2014 is the largest annual meeting of North Carolina’s municipal officials with more than 500 in attendance.

This year’s theme was Charting Our Tomorrow, which reflects the League’s strategic visioning process that will develop the vision for the future of North Carolina’s cities and towns into 2030. The visioning process is being conducted by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, and CityVision 2014 was the membership’s first opportunity to provide input. As the event name and theme suggest, the concept of visioning and “Charting Our Tomorrow” was a core element throughout the conference.

Conference keynote speaker and renowned futurist Rebecca Ryan speaks at CityVision 2014. Photo credit: Pat Appleson for NCLM

The opening general session speaker, Rebecca Ryan, is also involved in the process. Ryan is a futurist by trade and works with municipalities across the nation through her business, Next Generation Consulting.

Ryan spoke of the importance of using strategic foresight in the visioning process versus strategic planning with her six-step process to chart a path for cities and towns in an ever-changing society.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to look past strategic planning because strategic foresight starts in the future and allows you to not just be smart but be wise,” Ryan said. “If I truly did have a crystal ball, what would you do differently? This process helps you understand what the future could be and helps you be wise in planning toward that future so that your kids and grandkids inherit a community that they can be proud of you for developing.”

Sylva Manager Page Roberson takes notes for the group during a strategic visioning workshop for managers. Photo credit: Pat Appleson for NCLM

Ryan also led multiple concurrent sessions with attendees that continued the “strategic foresight” conversations and facilitated smaller group discussions on how to be futurists in their own communities.

Other notable speakers included Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter and National League of Cities First Vice President and St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Ralph Becker who joined the membership at the Monday Delegates’ Luncheon directly before the Annual Business Meeting. Both speakers continued with the theme of moving forward.

“How are we to respond to the new world? Because, as I said, there is no going back to the way things were,” Clodfelter said. “We can’t assume state-level policymakers are engaged with, care about, or know what is happening in local government. Our interactions with our colleagues in the legislature have to be more purposeful and intentional going forward.”

“I think we are so fortunate to work in cities. That’s where the action is – where innovation is happening,” Becker said. “I feel so fortunate to be working at the city level where people expect us to accomplish the changes to drive our future.”

The League's Executive Director Paul Meyer, Immediate Past President Al King, 1st Vice President and Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens, and President and Burlington Mayor Ronnie wall at CityVision 2014. Photo credit: Pat Appleson for NCLM

The membership also elected new officers and members to its Board of Directors. Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall accepted the gavel from 2013-2014 President Mayor Al King of Goldsboro. Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens was elected to the first vice president seat after serving as second vice president, and Zebulon Mayor Robert Matheny, who served on the board as District 6 Representative,  is the new second vice president. The League also said goodbye to several outgoing board members including Hendersonville Manager John Connet, Mayor Richard Stanley of Beaufort, and Mayor Rudy Wright of Hickory.

 Representative Andy Wells accepts the League's Community Champion Award from President Ronnie Wall. Photo credit: Pat Appleson for NCLM

The League presented three legislative honors; Representative Andy Wells and Senator Gene McLaurin received the Community Champion Award, and Senator Kathy Harrington’s Legislative Assistant Mary Marchman was named the inaugural General Assembly Ambassador. These awards are given to legislators who make strong efforts to work with municipal officials and ensure that municipal interests are represented during the legislative process.  In their acceptance remarks, each speaker spoke about how municipalities can work better with the General Assembly.

“When I went to Raleigh in January of 2013, I thought everybody understood what an outstanding job our cities and towns did to provide the services that you provide. I learned pretty quickly that not everybody in Raleigh that serves in the legislature understands that -- it was a shock,” McLaurin, who before becoming a state senator served as mayor of Rockingham for 15 years, said. “I want to stress to you that it’s so important that anyone who serves in the House or Senate knows who you are. Make us accountable. Help us to understand your issues.”


 Band Party on the Moon begins its performance after the closing dinner. Photo credit: Pat Appleson for NCLM

After dinner and awards, the band Party on the Moon kept the celebration going. Party on the Moon was back at CityVision 2014 by popular demand based on their performance two years ago at conference in Charlotte. The band lived up to its expectations and did not disappoint because the dance floor was never empty.

The City of Greensboro rolled out the red carpet for the membership by hosting several entertaining events. The Host City Event Sunday evening took place at the ACC Hall of Champions where attendees were able to mingle over tailgate-inspired foods like wings and hotdogs and stroll through the exhibits, which included the ACC’s most prized trophies and records.

Greensboro also hosted one of two mobile workshops at the Greensboro Science Center, where attendees got a behind-the-scenes look at baby penguins and the shark tank. The Greensboro Science Center is a public-private partnership which resulted in revenue that funded major expansions. The Center recently received a $20-million bond for its largest expansion yet that will add North Carolina’s only in-land aquarium.

The Town of Kernersville, which benefitted from public-private partnerships as well, hosted the second mobile workshop. Kernersville’s workshop showcased its progress in revitalizing downtown in the past five years. Main Street underwent a $2-million revitalization to become a thriving part of the community with plenty of restaurants, shops, a botanical garden, museum, historic depot, farmers market and community park.

For the first time, Tuesday was devoted to personal development. There were three courses offered that were included in the conference registration fee. Attendees could choose from the state-mandated ethics training provided by University of North Carolina School of Government faculty or two Local Elected Leaders Academy courses on public speaking or social media.

The Academy, commonly referred to as LELA, is a partnership between the University of North Carolina School of Government, the NC Association of County Commissioners and the League that recognizes elected officials for a lifelong commitment to learning through workshops and trainings. Those taking courses earned LELA credits for participation.

The social media course, Savvy Social Media Skills for Government Leaders, had two tracks for beginners and advanced users. Mark Weaver of Communications Counsel, Inc., taught best practices and strategies for several social media platforms.

Joy Javtis, founder of In the Public Eye, and University of North Carolina Associate Professor of Mass Communication Chris Lundberg led the public speaking workshop, Present, Persuade and Connect: The Art of Public Speaking. The interactive workshop gave tips on how municipal and county officials can be confident and effective speakers.

For handouts and presentations from CityVision 2014, please visit the League’s website at