Fire Safety House/Modern Woodmen of America Partnership

This is such a great example of the true One Simpsonville spirit. Mr. Stephens of Modern Woodmen of America contacted me early this year about ways in which his organization might partner with the city. I spent some time learning about him and his organization and talking with Ms. Tiffany Cherry, our Community Relations Specialist, Mr. David
13177472_1708838509392773_2008053661691080840_nDyrhaug, our City Administrator, and Mayor Curtis. Then, in one of our budget workshops, we heard about a Fire Department “want:” a fire safety house (read more here). This was something that we obviously were not going to be able to budget for, given our vast number of critical needs. But it sounded like an excellent opportunity to partner with an organization like Modern Woodmen. So we took the idea to Mr. Stephens, who did some research, and determined that he had a matching funds program that we could take advantage of for this project. And so we took it to Council, who (after some initial objections) unanimously voted to move forward on the project. Once approved, the work began to plan a special fundraising event to raise our match to obtain these funds. But here’s the really wonderful part: once the public heard about our efforts to fund fire safety education through private partnerships, people started calling to find out how they could help. Individual citizens wanted to know where to send money. Business owners wanted to know how they could help raise awareness. Bethel Trails Farm, a local business that operates at our Simpsonville Farmer’s Market, offered to host a fundraising event at their farm—and they wanted to donate a whole pig to entice people to come and give. And it worked. We raised over $1,800.00 that night. But that’s not all, the Farmer’s Market itself offered a significant monetary donation AND volunteered to raise money over the course of the summer, keeping a “Loot for the Boot” collection boot and encouraging customers to donate. At the end of the summer, they’ll donate it all to the fund. And finally, this October, we’ll be holding a Stop, Drop, and Run 5K (stay tuned for more details) to wrap up our fundraising efforts. This event is made possible through a number sponsorships from businesses and citizens. This whole project illustrates the One Simpsonville spirit very clearly. In this venture, we have truly united our city—its citizens, its businesses, and its government—working together for continuous improvement.  Plus, we now have a partnership with Modern Woodmen of America that we expect to last well beyond this project.

Independence Day Celebration!

1465836633192This morning, there was a press conference about this upcoming celebration for the 4th of July! Hope to see you there!

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra is returning to Heritage Park in Simpsonville this Fourth of July weekend for a special free concert.

The Independence Day Celebration at Heritage Park will occur on Saturday, July 2 with gates opening at 5 p.m. and the event starting at 6 p.m.

The GSO under the direction of Maestro Edvard Tchivzhel will start playing just after sunset. The orchestra’s hour-long show will be capped by a cannon barrage during the 1812 Overture and then followed by an 18-minute fireworks display.

The event is sponsored by The City of Simpsonville, Greenville County and Greenville Health System, and is being produced by TRZ Management, which does the event production at Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park.

Simpsonville Mayor Janice Curtis said the event is something geared for the entire family.

“We want the entire Upstate to be able to enjoy the Fourth of July with an amazing concert from one of the nation’s leading orchestras and a true fireworks spectacular,” she said.

Entrance to the event is free. Guests can bring chairs and blankets, but cannot bring their own food. There will be food and drink vendors on site. Andy White, the symphony’s interim executive director said the Fourth of July show is a special event for the Upstate.

“There is really nothing like it in the region,” he said.

Aside from the concert, the event will include military vehicles, a rock climbing wall, special salutes to armed forces, a military jump team and a Flag Retirement Ceremony by the Boy Scouts of America.  The Flag Retirement Ceremony is only performed by special Boy Scout troops where they expertly and systematically take apart a flag using scissors or shears and then incinerate the pieces in a burner.

About the Greenville Symphony Orchestra

The Greenville Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to providing educational and cultural opportunities for the citizens of Greenville and surrounding communities through the presentation of live orchestral music. Offering excellence in live musical performance, the orchestra enriches lives, educates minds and encourages community support of the arts. Learn more at www.greenvillesymphony.org.

About the Independence Day Celebration at Heritage Park

This free Fourth of July spectacular is a family friendly event located in beautiful Simpsonville, South Carolina and held at the Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/IndependenceDayCelebrationatHeritagePark/. Share information on the event with the hashtags #discoversimpsonville #independenceupstate

Arts Center Feasibility Study Update

Arts Center Feasibility Study Update: The Study Committee should be finalized no later than May 13th, 2016. Once finalized, staff will organize an orientation meeting for all involved, based on their availability. The goal of that meeting is to familiarize everyone with each other and the role they will play in the feasibility study. Groups will be formed from the Committee and given tasks to complete concerning the study. Each group will be responsible for creating a timeline to complete their tasks. Staff will support each group and ensure progress is made in a timely manner.

See previous blog post for more on the Arts Center Feasibility Study.

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Q&A: “What is Your Vision, Jenn?”

Earlier today I posted this on my Facebook page:

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Tonight, I received a response on that post that asked this: “What is your vision Jenn?”  As with my last response to a Facebook question, I have a little more to say than fits into a Facebook comment box, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to see my response, so I’m posting it here:

First and foremost, I envision the future of the school as a place that is truly for the people, by the people, and of the people. What do the people want? What will most benefit them? How can they make use of the space to improve their lives?

To this end, I think it’s great that Councilman Taylor Graham attended our concerned citizens meeting, recognizing that citizen input is key to determining the best possible usage of that building. I am happy that the city has some sort of plan for focus groups sometime in the future to get citizen feedback.

Regardless of what we decide to do with the elementary school, I firmly believe we need access to the arts for all of our citizens and a stronger commitment to community and cultural programs and services. It is my opinion that the school offers us a unique opportunity as a place that could help us fulfill such a commitment. It’s there. It’s empty. We own it. We need to do something with it. Why not this?

Imagine the school once again alive with the sound of children laughing, playing, learning. And imagine it weren’t just children.

Imagine adults—people of all ages—laughing in the auditorium seats or singing on its stage; drawing, painting, or sculpting in studio classrooms; or browsing halls lined with the work of local & regional artists. Imagine them learning more about Simpsonville’s history during programs like those presented by the Simpsonville Museum of Revolutionary War Museum. Imagine them attending a book reading by a local author.

These are just examples—the specifics of what could and would be offered there would be determined by the people. As I said originally, it would be something that is uniquely Simpsonville—something that encourages community pride for our citizens through arts and culture.

So imagine a place that would enrich all of our lives and our community through a variety of cultural activities, through exposure to the arts, through a shared sense of community. That’s my vision.

And it’s a vision that will yield multiple social and economic benefits to our city. It’s a vision we can accomplish if we’re all working together towards the same goal: one better Simpsonville for all.

“Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of?”

“Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of?”  According to former Davidson, NC Mayor Randall Kincaid, their city adopted a philosophy by which public officials asked this question before every decision.

It’s such a simple thing. And yet, it’s brilliant in its simplicity: “Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of?”

It’s brilliant because ultimately, that’s the job of city leaders: to create a future better than the present, to work steadily for continuous improvement, to create a city that our children will be proud to live, work, and play in years from now.

“Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of?”

It’s brilliant because it forces us to stop and consider the long-term goal or vision before making short-term decisions.

And above all else, that’s what we need to do on city council. We need a vision. And we need people committed to making it a reality. We need people willing to ask, “Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of?” at every turn.

I have a vision for Simpsonville that I think will make it, beyond a doubt, the kind of city our children and their children will be proud of.

We’re on our way. But to fully realize this vision of Simpsonville, I think we need to focus on a few key areas:

  1. Commit to community and cultural programs and services:
    • Provide access to the arts for all of our citizens,
    • Support programs that educate, inform, and inspire through a variety of cultural activities.
  2. This will lead to economic development…because community development is economic development.
    • Grow and retain current businesses (by keeping Simpsonville dollars in Simpsonville and bringing outside $ in),
    • Attract and support new businesses.
  3. But in order to do this, we need to work together. We need everybody on board. So we need to commit to creating unity and building partnerships.
    • Partner with individual citizens, local businesses, non-profit organizations, civic groups
    • Work together for a common goal, a shared vision

Then we can ask ourselves, “Are we moving in a direction our children can be proud of?” And answer ourselves with a resounding yes. Yes, we are moving in a direction our children will be proud of. Yes, we are creating a better Simpsonville for the future.

It’s time to get people on council who can do that. I think I’m just that kind of person.  And that’s why I’m asking for your vote on November 3rd.

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Response to Facebook Inquiry

I received the following comment on Facebook, and as I began to type out my response, I realized it wasn’t Facebook-sized, so I decided to include it here and just link it:

beth langely

I’ll give you the short answer here and invite you to come on out to Tea N Things on Monday evening for the meet the candidates event to talk about it some more. Hope to see you there!

  • “How do you plan on drawing business here?”

My vision for increasing economic development in Simpsonville relies on creating stronger partnerships between the city government, business owners, non-profit and community groups, etc. As Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, success takes care of itself.”  We need everyone in Simpsonville on board. I believe the mayor and council should provide the vision and leadership to make that happen. Further, I believe that community development is economic development. And I believe that it starts (and is successful) when the city government has a broad vision for community & economic development to guide its decisions. Every decision should be preceded by the question, “how does this (or does this not) help us accomplish our long-term goal?” When potential businesses see a community thriving, they are naturally attracted to it. When they know that the city will help support them in becoming established as part of that community, they are more inclined to join the community.  When they see everyone working together towards one shared goal: the betterment of the city, they know they will be successful, that we’ll all be successful, and are far more likely to choose Simpsonville as a place to start/open a business. When they see strong leaders with a clear vision, they want to be a part of that.

  • “How are you planning to pay for putting the arts in the old school building? Are you going to raise taxes or take money needed to fund other departments to pay for it?”

Bringing arts and culture to Simpsonville starts with a vision—a vision that the city government should share and commit to. From there, specific planning can begin. That planning will need to include multiple stakeholders. I will say again that creating stronger partnerships between the city government, business owners, non-profit and community groups, etc. is incredibly important to achieving this vision. Establishing an Arts Center is a long-term goal. It won’t happen overnight. But it won’t happen at all if we do not have leaders committed to a vision that includes one. It will also not be something I alone do—it will be a team effort, and all good teams start with a shared goal. On raising taxes: We just had a tax increase. We need to avoid increasing taxes again. We also need to ensure that we maintain the first rate services we’ve come to expect in Simpsonville. These same services that make it enjoyable for us to live here also attract new residents and businesses. That’s good for the city. And we certainly can’t cut necessary services to fund an Arts Center; that would be irresponsible.  I will say on a related note that I would like to see our departments adopt a zero-based budgeting (ZBB) model. In my experience (I have had to do this in my role as a department head in the public sector), ZBB creates a more efficient allocation of resources. This can help us “trim the fat” (if there is any), so that we can maintain those services without increasing taxes (this is true whether there’s an Arts Center or not).  We need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Again, I hope to see you at the Meet the Candidates event on Monday evening! Click here to register.

Community and Cultural Programs Contribute to Economic Development

In my campaign launch speech, I shared a vision for Simpsonville–a vision that includes making economic development a top priority and committing to community and cultural programs and services.

On community and cultural programs and services, I called for a comprehensive plan that does 3 things:

  1. provides access to the arts for all citizens;artssimpsonville
  2. supports programs that educate, inform, and inspire through a variety of cultural activities;
  3. and contributes to the overall economic development of our city.

Let me share with you a story that illustrates one reason why this is important: Not long ago, I posted on Facebook about an upcoming event sponsored by the Simpsonville Revolutionary War Museum.  Immediately two non-Simpsonville residents responded: “There’s a history museum in Simpsonville? I had no idea! I’m going to have to come down there and check it out!” Community and cultural programs and services draw visitors to a city.  Once here, those visitors check out the rest of the city.  Imagine if there were enough community & cultural programs that people could spend a full day in Simpsonville–visiting the museum, learning about our local history, taking in a show (maybe a play performed on the stage of the old Simpsonville Elementary School).  Imagine they spend the day shopping, eating.  Imagine the revenue that could generate for the city, the positive impact it could have on our small, local businesses.

When we head out to Greenville, Mauldin, or Fountain Inn to take part in community or cultural programs and services, we’re giving them our tax dollars, we’re supporting their local economies.  Why wouldn’t we want to support our own?  And why wouldn’t we want to not just keep our dollars here but also draw in visitors who would spend their money here?  Visitors who would tell their friends: “Simpsonville is a great place to spend a day…or a weekend. You really need to check out what Simpsonville has to offer.”

Again I say, community development is economic development.  A commitment to cultural programs and services contributes to the overall economic development of a city.  It’s time to focus on that.