By Tameka Kenan-Norman
On January 5, 2017, Stuart Lee will finish his assignment as team lead for the White House Special Council for Strong Cities Strong Communities (SC2). The SC2 leadership torch will be passed on to the newly created Rocky Mount Opportunities and Capacity Team — a team comprised of seven city employees who represent various departments within city government.
Launched in 2011, SC2 was developed to support President Barack Obama’s agenda to build ladders of opportunity for communities hit hardest by the recession. SC2 assists those communities through a collaborative partnership to coordinate federal programs and investments to spark economic growth, improve community health and create stronger cooperation between community organizations, local leadership and federal government.
The city of Rocky Mount was one of seven cities chosen. The city was selected Jan. 2014 after a second application and a competitive process. Upon the designation, a federal team lead was embedded within the city to work closely with the city manager and staff to help the city on strategic projects that are vital to the city’s goals to grow the regional food economy, increase job creation and talent development, and improve the quality of life in underserved communities.
Through SC2, the city has had two team leads. During the first year, David Glasgow served as team lead. Lee has been serving as the federal team lead since Jan. 15, 2016.
“Over the course of two years, the accomplishments under the collaborative partnership between the city and SC2 have been remarkable,” said Lee.
Some of the accomplishments achieved have included:
- Partnering with two local colleges to develop a local coding program to foster tech-job opportunities and to develop strategies for a community arts program and council;
- Hosting trainings and workshops for community health, capacity building and community development;
- Working with AmeriCorps to develop a curb appeal project addressing neglected properties in neighborhoods and to add capacity to the Rocky Mount Senior Center;
- Partnering with the Department of Defense on three projects allowing military personnel specialized training while working within the community. These three projects aim to: provide improvements to local parks, address flood mitigation and provide a free vision and dental clinic in partnership with the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC);
- Securing technical assistance to develop the Monk to Mill Trail Feasibility Study to connect inner city neighborhoods to commercial districts, jobs and a greenway system;
- Participating in a community initiative to develop a plan to grow the local food economy;
- Partnering with a local nonprofit to develop a plan for a local farm school to help train and support future farmers and the local ag-economy;
- Helping to establish a coalition of regional stakeholders along 100 miles of the Tar River to develop the Tar River Trek, a dual paddle-bike trail; and
- Building a coalition of federal partners from more than 20 different agencies to help address local priorities.
Because SC2 ends when the new administration takes office, it was important for Lee to build a process so that established partnerships continue.
“It was very important to me from the beginning to make sure SC2 doesn’t end, but rather it gets transferred to the city through a sustainable process with built-in capacity,” said Lee.
In March of this year, Lee worked with the City Manager’s Office to establish the Rocky Mount Opportunities and Capacity Team. Similar to SC2, the purpose of the team is to build capacity within the organization and to review, explore and offer input and guidance on technical and financial opportunities for the city and the community. The team is working closely with Lee to gain training and exposure on partnering with federal agencies and identifying how to match opportunities to city goals.
“Over the past two years, you can see and feel the momentum of success within the city,” said Lee. “Together, the City Manager’s Office and I have put together a great team of city employees who will continue to build upon the successes that the city has worked so hard to achieve through our federal partnership.”
Upon transferring SC2 to the Rocky Mount Opportunities and Capacity Team, what’s next for our current team lead?
“I will miss this great city that I have come to know. There is just so much passion and commitment from the community to cultivate opportunities, and I genuinely respect Rocky
Mount,” said Lee. “The city sits on a strong foundation; it’s building new successes upon it every day, and I feel blessed to have been here to be a very small part of Rocky Mount’s bright future.”
Lee hopes to leverage his SC2 assignment to work in national management with the US Department of Agriculture, his home agency.