A Warm Welcome
When I first heard about a joint internship opportunity with the City of Kannapolis and the City of Concord, I knew it would be my top choice. I spent the first 8 years of my life living Kannapolis, North Carolina before moving down the road to Concord, North Carolina. I graduated from Concord High School in 2008. Both sets of my grandparents played strong roles in their communities here for most of their lives. As I grew up, they instilled in me a sense of public service. This internship with Kannapolis and Concord is not only a great opportunity to apply what I’ve learned from my first year at the UNC School of Government, but it is also a way that I can give back to communities that I know and care about.
I spend the first 6 weeks of the summer working with the City of Kannapolis, followed by another 6 weeks working with the City of Concord. In Kannapolis, my first assignment involves researching how comparable cities handle buildings and grounds maintenance and forming a recommendation for the City of Kannapolis. My direct supervisor in each city is the respective deputy city manager. Here in Kannapolis, that man is Eddie Smith. After spending just a few days with him, it is evident that he is well-respected and well-liked within the community. Most recently, he has been receiving congratulations for implementing one of Kannapolis’s biggest events of the year, the Village Jiggy Jam Festival.
The Village Jiggy Jam Festival was my first experience working with the deputy city manager of Kannapolis. The festival included a 5K, arts and crafts vendors, live music, and a “People’s Choice” wings and pork tasting. Another major component of the festival is known as the Jiggy with the Piggy BBQ Challenge. The challenge turned out being the 2nd largest Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned event in North Carolina, with 81 teams. On the day of the festival, I shadowed Eddie and observed how he successfully coordinated members of the fire department, police department, public works department, and parks and recreation department to pull off the event. The success of this festival relied on many City employees, from the police department manning a command center in the middle of the festival to the public works department preparing and putting up signs to direct visitors.
The festival serves as an example of how cities work with each other and community organizations to do more for their citizens. I spoke with representatives from the City of Asheboro, NC who were at the festival to study the logistics of the event. They hope to pull off a similar event in the future. The City of Kannapolis also maintains relationships with civic organizations in the community such as the YMCA and Kannapolis Rotary Club. On Tuesday, I was Eddie’s guest at a Kannapolis Rotary Club meeting where I received another warm welcome and a warm meal. At the meeting, I heard examples of how the Club is involved in the community, from being a major partner in organizing events like the Village Jiggy Jam Festival and organizing volunteers for Meals on Wheels to funding student scholarships for college.
Kannapolis was once referred to by many people as the Towel City. It is historically known for being the location of the textile giant, Cannon Mills. Cannon Mills was established in 1900s by James W. Cannon and became one of the largest manufacturers of towels and sheets in the world. It operated until about 2003. Now, the City is adapting to meet the future. The modern North Carolina Research Campus stands on the former site of the iconic Cannon Mills. It is a $1.5 billion bio-sciences campus that partners with several universities and businesses to conduct research ranging in areas from nutrition to disease prevention.
Many City employees are excited for the construction of a new City Hall that will be placed next to the NC Research Campus. The new City Hall will maintain the architectural standards of the Research Campus. On Thursday, I was able to sit in on the bidding process for various features of the new building. Construction is expected to begin this month. Kannapolis continues to grow and I know my experience here will help me grow as well. I’ll be updating this blog weekly. In about 5 weeks, I’ll introduce the City Concord and share how my experience there compares to my time here with the City of Kannapolis.