Yesterday was West Virginia Day. This is the first West Virginia Day that I have celebrated both as a West Virginian and really ever. June 20th is the anniversary of the creation of West Virginia as a result of the succession from Virginia. The history of the formation of West Virginia is a fascinating Civil War story involving President Lincoln and a desire for regional control. It was also possible through a vacuum of voting residents who where traveling through northern Virginia with General Lee. Its well worth exploring for all of the history buffs out there.
As many of you know a year ago, the politics had changed dramatically in Martin County where I was working. After six years with one of the most progressive and talented public sector development teams in country, and some of the most energized community stakeholders I had ever worked with, we were implementing the county’s redevelopment plans. These were not easy projects, but with the enthusiasm of the community and the skill of the team, we were able to work through the obstacles and get projects complete. It was slow going through one of the most complex development environments, but we were able undertake some of the most progressive development projects.
The momentum was great, the community values were increasing, and we were attracting both local and national investment. During the annual budget hearings, the County Commission decided to stop all of these projects without warning. Redevelopment was no longer a priority which was devastating to the communities in which I was working and a moral atomic bomb for my team. This is one of the risks of working in the public sector, and it forced me to explore other opportunities were I could use my talents and follow my passions.
June 20th, I had a phone conversation with a visionary City Manager of a small town in the eastern panhandle of the state. He had come into his office on West Virginia Day, which is a paid holiday, to have a conversation with me about the work underway in his City.
The City had recently adopted comprehensive plan which established a fiscal first approach to development and planning. As he talked, I heard the Strong Towns approach to City Management. He explained that the City had adopted form based code that allows for compact development, mixed-use, the missing middle, and protects the character of the historic core. The City also had master planned and approved three different developments: a transit oriented development, an agrarian urbanist development, and a a neighborhood that is an extension of downtown. On top of all of this, this town had received a $13 million dollar grant to design and build a sustainable urban boulevard through the heart of the city connecting the old with the new.
I hung up th excited about the vision and direction of the City. These builders are taking risks outside the conventionaly&kj$ norms, which are resulting in incredible projects. Mobile homes are being replaced with townhouses, commercial rental tenants are converting to landlords, and the boulevard project has transformed the City.
I started a City Facebook Page last fall. Several of us at the City post City news and events. We also post images of the City which seem to get the most views. I enjoy reading the comments from residents, both current and former, that are surprised at the transformation of the City. They know the images to be Ranson, but it is a better Ranson then the day before.
West Virginia Day is a special Day for me, because this is the anniversary of joining this team, and being part of this City. If you are in the Eastern Panhandle, I encourage you to stop by and check out my new home. This is a special place that I love to share.