Letter to Kinston: see you later, but not goodbye

Kinston: See you later, but not goodbye

Eight years ago, the citizens of Kinston took a chance on me. For a young man wanting to make an impact on his hometown and willing to give up 16 years of his life, I am forever grateful for the eight you allowed me to serve.

In fourth grade at Bynum Elementary, I told my art teacher I would live in Kinston when I got older. While watching a laser disc – which cast the vision for the Global TransPark – in the seventh grade at Rochelle Middle School, it solidified that promise in my heart and mind.

During my lifetime, my family has experienced great trials, including the tragic loss of my mother and my sister’s courageous battle with cancer, which sparked a community rally for prayer. Through prayer, family and our community, we have persevered. So too has our beloved Kinston.

We once were the epicenter of Eastern North Carolina where the Magic Mile reigned. However, the loss of tobacco and textiles sent shockwaves throughout our economy. After years of hard work but about the time we started figuring things out, Hurricane Floyd left us with the so-called “Flood of the Century,” which changed the landscape of neighborhoods throughout our community.

Even still, in 2002 upon graduating from ECU, I came home. I enjoyed running the Broken Eagle Eatery, engaging in historic preservation and leading downtown revitalization efforts through Pride of Kinston. These experiences encouraged my love for my hometown and created personal and professional relationships that continue even today.

Over these past eight years, I have enjoyed advocating for our staff, our businesses and our people. Whether it was a crime, a business expansion, Eagle Scout Court of Honor or a flood, you have been worth fighting for.

From the onset, I challenged the status quo and made many mistakes. The incredible team of city leaders, civic organizers, teenagers and religious leaders – mixed with an environment for business success – has led to a new identity for Kinston with incredible hopes of prosperity on the horizon.

I have had the privilege of serving you during a time when our reputation has changed across the state. In the past we were greeted with “You’re from Kinston?” and now it’s “You’re from Kinston!”

Our collective success has been no accident. The City of Kinston has developed a culture of finding ways to say “yes” as a means to create an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. Our local government has been most effective because of our willingness to be engaged, yet standing out of the way. 

Through the collective of our team and community, we have been able to see some accomplishments. Here are but a few:

  • All major indicators of violent crimes are down 11.7 percent since 2009; that number includes murder, rape, robbery, motor vehicle theft and simple assault
  • The No. 1 issue facing our town for more than two decades had been our electric rates. Electric rates are down 10 percent since 2009 and are projected to be stable for the next several years
  • Street resurfacing has gone from a budget of zero tax dollars allocated in 2009 to $500,000, which will be spent in the coming months. We’re still shy of the $600,000 needed annually to sustain a 25-year life cycle, but we accomplished this without any increase in our total property tax revenue
  • Our fund balances, which are our savings accounts for emergency use like hurricane expenses and one-time expenditures like the Queen Street rehab, across all our accounts have gone from a disturbing $13,059,467 to a healthy $35,275,632
  • In 2009, Kinston’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent; today, we’re at 5.3 percent
  • We found the right opportunity to split up the Department of Public Safety, so the two disciplines of Police and Fire could better focus on their core functions
  • We have more Community Watch programs than in 2009
  • We instituted prayer vigils as an immediate action following horrific events
  • We are hiring a community development planner to continue to find ways to work with neighborhoods in developing safe and productive communities
  • We have tripled the amount we’re spending in 2018 versus 2009 on demolishing blighted homes
  • We opened the Lions Water Adventure Park, which attracts thousands to our community each summer
  • We have installed thousands of LED street lights that save taxpayers’ money; in the process, increasing brightness and reducing maintenance costs
  • We have worked with the Pride of Kinston board to bring their staff members inside our organization. The new director will now be responsible for not only downtown, but also supporting the efforts of small business recruitment, retention, and expansion throughout our city limits
  • We saw the Kinston Indians leave us with a five-year drought in baseball only to successfully recruit the Texas Rangers. On Monday night, we will pass an agreement that solidifies the presence of the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston through 2033
  • We overhauled our Comprehensive Unified Development Ordinance to streamline policies affecting our business community and to better position ourselves for growth
  • We took our 40-year dormant power plant and found a way to allow outside investors to launch a new business. Unlike Vernon Park Mall, the City of Kinston now owns (via a gift) the Glen Raven Mills property, which allows the City of Kinston to control its impact on development along the Neuse River and Riverwalk
  • We are investing in the infrastructure and aesthetics of Queen Street to give our downtown a shot in the arm for development; otherwise, Queen Street will remain 50 percent vacant. Although the project has been frustrating to many, this is an investment like never in our history and will give us a fighting chance at recreating the Magic of the Mile
  • We successfully motivated and transferred ownership of the flood prevention issue to the State of North Carolina, who is now studying mitigation efforts for the Neuse River Basin

And here are just a few things to happen in the next few years:

  • The completion of Harvey Parkway Part C, which will connect Hwy 58 at the Global TransPark to Hwy 11 south of Dupont
  • The completion of the Carey Road Extension (which has been three decades in the making) from Rouse Road to Daly Waldrop and Hwy 258
  • The extension of Doctors Drive so citizens and emergency services personnel can travel from Herritage Street to Airport Road via Doctors Drive
  • The construction of a second point of distribution for our electric grid to reduce the likelihood of emergencies like the Outer Banks experienced this past summer
  • The implementation of Smart Grid systems to give you better control of your energy consumption and bill

Come Monday, December 4 at 5:30 p.m., I will freely step aside for our new Mayor. Our country is the greatest on earth because of moments like this. Granted, I’d rather stay, but Don Hardy is now my mayor and yours. I encourage you to join me as I pray for his success. Pray for the team of leaders that surround him that they may be able to carry this momentum to a new level.

Kinston deserves prosperity and I believe she is in the best position to capitalize on it. For now, I will do more listening on city affairs than talking. I will turn my attention to my social media marketing firm and incredible family. I encourage all of you to look for opportunities to become more involved in our community. Our kids, our neighbors and this beloved community deserve your best. I’d #ExpectNothingLess because #IHeartKinston.

Less talk. More rolled-up sleeves. Less condemnation. More prayer and encouragement.

May you and our city’s future be blessed with much success and happiness!

Forever in love,
Mayor BJ Murphy

WNCT: Kinston Teens hold town hall with local leaders Friday

By WNCT STAFF
Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports – WNCT.com
KINSTON, N.C. – A group of teenagers in Kinston hope to improve community dialogue and the city’s image.

They hosted their first “Teen Town Hall” at the Woodmen Community Center.

9 On Your Side has covered the youth advocacy group “Kinston Teens” since October.

Founder Chris Suggs created the group as a way to keep teens off the streets and invested in their community.

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston Public Safety Director Bill Johnson, Lenoir County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Mazingo and other school and county officials participated; it is the first time youth have had the chance to hold their leaders accountable.
“What you’re seeing right now are the future leaders of our community.” Mayor BJ Murphy said.

“I mean these kids really care about their community; they want to hold government accountable but at the same time they’re getting into the trenches and they’re rolling up their sleeves too.”

The group’s concerns were heard loud and clear. This town hall meeting will be followed up with sit downs with not only the Director of Public Safety, but lawmakers in Raleigh to address their concerns.

“I’m truly pleased about how this event turned out.” Kinston Teens President Chris Suggs said. “I think there’s nowhere else we can go but up.”

Follow the “Kinston Teens” on Twitter @KinstonTeens

KFP: Council delays hearing on development ordinance

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

One highlight of the Kinston City Council meeting Tuesday was the further delay of a much anticipated overview.

The Unified Development Ordinance public hearing has been moved to Oct. 21, after previously being slated for Sept. 16. Planning Director Adam Short went through some of the points in the UDO overview in front of the council, saying there were only minor changes in the ordinance, other than a few grammatical and spelling errors.

“It was a time management thing,” Short said. “Given the amount of notice we had to do and the overall volume of information coordinating, we felt like there was no rush. We’ve got a little more time for planning things out and it gives the public more notice.”

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears has been among those ready to have the ordinance brought to the board.

“We’ve wrapped up the community meetings with the UDO,” Sears said. “It’s been almost a year since we started it and the staff is really excited to review it in front of the council.”

Sears was also interested in the grant opportunity brought before the council about body cameras for members of the Kinston Department of Public Safety.

“The cameras are the most economic and efficient way to provide officer safety,” Sears said. “Car cameras are more expensive and don’t give the best coverage for officers.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy saw the development of a new Riverwalk as one of the more important parts of the meeting. The council approved the process to seek a grant for the trail.

“The City of Kinston and Lenoir County Transportation Committee worked diligently last spring on updating our pedestrian plan,” Murphy said. “The project should score high. It involves being environmentally friendly, encourages exercise and we have multifaceted partnerships with the city of Kinston, Lenoir County, DOT, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and other state organizations.

Bill Ellis, director of the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department, believes the grant will be available for the trail, which will span from the African-American Music Trail to Pearson Park.

“The trail will be 10 feet wide and will be for walking, cycling, horse carriage and anything else,” Ellis said. “I feel confident we’ll get the grant.”

The next city council meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16.

 

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Kinston at @JuniousSmithIII.

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 21:07 PM.

KFP: Reggie Bullock drafted by Clippers

Reggie drafted

Reggie Bullock, left, shares a light moment with high school friends, Dory Hines, Dajonte Wise and Curtis “Nootsie” Hines at Bullock’s NBA draft party at the Woodmen Community Center Thursday night.

Janet S. Carter / The Free Press

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 00:05 AM.

Reggie Bullock is NBA bound.

Bullock, who decided to forego the bright lights and the limelight of television to be a part of a small gathering at the Woodmen Community Center in Kinston, was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Bullock’s selection made him Kinston’s sixth native to be taken in the draft, joining Cedric Maxwell (1977), Mitchell Wiggins (1983), Charles Shackleford (1988), Jerry Stackhouse (1995) and Herbert Hill (2007).

The announcement — Bullock watched on a pull-down screen in a side room at the Woodmen Community Center — came with an eruption of cheers and salutations for the biggest athlete basketball-wise to come through Kinston in quite some time.

“I just had to be patient and wait for my time; my time came at the right time,” an elated Bullock said. “I’m real comfortable with this position that I’m in, going to the Clippers. So, I’m just grateful — me, my family and friends.

“I’m just glad that everybody came out to support (me).”

Being drafted, no matter in what slot and to what team, has been Bullock’s goal all along.

“This is what I dreamed of, Day 1, since I played basketball at Holloway, growing up on Bright Street. This is what I’ve dreamed of,” the 22-year-old said. “My chance is here. One of the easiest parts is getting here. One of the hardest parts is staying. So I’m just going to go in there from Day 1 and work, and hopefully I’m just going to try and help the organization out as best as possible.”

Retired Rochelle Middle School basketball coach Alexander “Skeet” Davis helped mentor Bullock out at Holloway Recreation Center.

As he watched Bullock enter the Woodmen Community Center on Thursday, he was taken back to the days when Bullock would do anything to be on a basketball court.

“I’m blessed to see this day,” Davis said. “I didn’t do anything special. I just did what Mr. Davis wanted to do, and that’s work with the kids. I’m so proud for him, so glad for him.

“Reggie had that drive, that work ethic, he had the manners. He’s just one of a kind.”

Former Kinston High School principal Wynn Whittington had the privilege of watching Bullock grow into a talented young man.

Whittington knew Bullock had a special talent and was a special student at a young age.

“It’s special for all of us; it’s special for Kinston — not just the community but Kinston High School,” he said. “It’s another player who’s come through the ranks and had a tremendous impact on the school and the community and is a role model for younger folks. We’re just real proud of him and what his accomplishments are.”

Bullock’s draft day was something Whittington came to expect.

“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if he felt Bullock would someday play in the NBA. “Reggie’s work ethic and personality and the way he was raised — to work hard and to prioritize things — and he made school and basketball a priority, and he’s reaping the dividends today.”

For Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Thursday’s achievement is something the community should be accustomed to.

“It’s always good to celebrate successes in the community, especially when it’s one of your native sons achieving a tremendous amount of success. And the good thing is, Kinston should be used to it,” Murphy said. “This is really a standard of who we are, and that’s why we’re so proud of Reggie. He’s continuing to meet that standard.”

 

Ryan Herman can be reached at 252-559-1073 orRyan.Herman@Kinston.com.

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/bullock-drafted-by-clippers-1.165252?tc=cr

Mayor Interns Getting Exposed to Local Government

2012 Mayor’s Summer Interns:
Carly Sanderson, rising Junior at Bethel Christian Academy
Austin Croom, rising Senior at Bethel Christian Academy
Adam Caldwell, Freshman at East Carolina University

Here’s a list of some of the things the interns have done:

  • City Manager’s meeting with Department Heads
  • Breakfast meeting with Mayor and City Manager
  • Lenoir County Transportation Meeting
  • Presentation(s) to Kinston City Council
  • Luncheon with NC Sen. David Rouzer, Candidate for US Congress
  • Arts grant presentation by US Rep. GK Butterfield
  • Tour of the NRWASA Water Plant
  • Small group discussion with UNC grad students on our new Arts & Cultural District near Mitchelltown
  • Communication via email and phone with NCGA bill drafting and other mayors
  • Tour of the Woodmen Community Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KFP: Woodmen Center ‘officially’ opens with a standing room only ceremony

by Bryan Hanks
@WOWInsurance

Although hundreds of memberships have already been sold for the new Woodmen of the World Community Center, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy may have made the most poignant purchase. In front of about 500 people at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the new center, Murphy handed his family application to WOW National Director Danny Rice.

“I wanted to show the community it’s time to embrace this project,” Murphy said of his gesture, which received a wave of applause. “We need to commit to this, even more so than we already have. Our community has to help with their memberships so we don’t have to worry about the future of this project is going to be. We need to invest in this now as private individuals, family members, military members or employees at different companies.

“We want to make sure it’s a success.”

Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was certainly a success, which took place in front of a standing room only crowd in the center’s Harvey Family Gymnasium.

Kinston’s Sue Ellen Maddux has been a part of the project since its inception. She headed up the steering committee for the Woodmen Center and admitted she was “emotional” when she witnessed the ribbon-cutting.

“I’m so excited for our committee and everyone that has worked so hard for this to happen,” Maddux said. “Most importantly, though, I’m excited for the citizens of this community. We have something here to be really proud of.”

The center was built as part of a public/private enterprise; the WOW invested most of the money in the $13 million project, along with some sizable private donations and a combined $1 million from the city of Kinston and Lenoir County.

“This is proof that local government can work with private enterprise,” longtime Lenoir County Commissioner Chairman George Graham said. “When that happens, great things can happen for a community.”

The public is getting its money’s worth, Murphy said.

“The taxpayers in Kinston and Lenoir County have something to be very proud of today,” Murphy said. “This will help us retain our employers here and will also recruit other employers to our community. We’re certainly grateful for the investment by the Woodmen but also the funding by the other sources.”

Rice said the completion of the Woodmen’s vision couldn’t have happened without the support of citizens in Lenoir County.

“This was a vision for a lot of people,” Rice said. “The Woodmen had a vision to have a pilot program and the city had a plan for a community center. … Without the public/private partnership, it wouldn’t have happened for either party, but this is proving it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

“The community support has been incredible. We’re frankly overwhelmed at the turnout today and the response to memberships already.”

WOW President and CEO Danny Cummins, who is based in Omaha, Neb., said he was impressed with the facility, especially in the speed in which it was built. The Lions Industries Water Park is still under construction; an official opening day for it has not yet been established.

“This is the end of a thought and vision that came forth four or five years ago,” Cummins said of the Woodmen Center. “This allows the community to have a center that they can use.”

The hero of the day, though, was Kinston Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis, who spearheaded the project. He received a standing ovation that lasted about 45 seconds when he rose to speak on the dais.

“This is a great day for all of us,” Ellis said after the ceremony. “It’s going to be a great place and we want everyone to come out and take part in it.”

http://www.kinston.com/articles/opens-83837-dub-.html

Bryan C. Hanks can be reached at 252-559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at BCHanks.

WNCT9: Kinston community center opens ahead of waterpark

@WNCT9

KINSTON, N.C. – There’s a new place to hang out in Kinston.

The Woodmen of the World community center officially opened Thursday.

Parks and Rec officials delayed the opening for a few days because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

A half million dollar state grant made the waterpark possible and Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy says it’s a great thing for Kinston.

“The investment by the woodmen, the investment by the different private partners in the city and county, this will certainly help us retain companies and also recruit companies and it certainly increases our quality of life in our community,” said Murphy.

The waterpark is set to open later this summer.

— Previous Story —

KINSTON, N.C. – If you’ve been hoping to beat the heat at a new water park in Kinston, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

The Woodman of the World Community Center in Kinston will open in a couple of weeks, but the highly anticipated water park attached to it will not.

Kinston Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Director Bill Ellis says that’s because of some last minute improvements to the plans.

“We just wanted to take out time and do it right because we think this is going to be a show place for the east,” said Ellis. “We’ve added a bath house. We’ve added a full concession stand, and life guard area and made the lazy river a little longer, so we’re just doing it right.”

Eliis says the community center will open July 23rd. And they are hopeful the water park will open by Labor Day.