What makes Davie special? Read portions of All America City application

Published 1:49 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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Following is the second in a series on Davie’s entry into the All-America City Award.

Last month, the National Civic League selected Davie County as a finalist for this year’s All-America City Award, and it will compete against 19 other communities in Denver, Colo. June 9-11.

“While the application was compiled by a team of county and municipal representatives and community leaders, the story is about all of us,” said Jeanna White, team member.  “As you read, you will revel in Davie County’s accomplishments and learn more about innovative programs in your own backyard.”

The words are from the team’s application, and have been edited for space.   

Strong civic capital creates the capacity for inclusive, collaborative decision-making, with a reciprocal relationship among institutions and residents for identifying and solving problems. We promote efforts that seek to listen to and learn from residents and leverage those insights to shape the way programs are administered, designed and executed.

Civic capital is composed of: shared vision and values, a culture of engagement, engaged residents, inclusive community leadership, embracing diversity and equity, authentic communication, and collaborative institutions.

Davie County’s application shared how we, as a community, exhibit each of those qualities.

Shared Vision and Values

Davie and its municipalities have a successful history of community engagement and healthy strategic/comprehensive planning processes. The 2018 Davie County Strategic Plan: “Davie County is a vibrant, prosperous, and dynamic county committed to building a sustainable future for generations to come while celebrating its rural heritage and enhancing its quality of life.” In order to facilitate this vision, the 2018 DCSP also established the Davie County government’s organizational mission to “…provide superior public service offering all citizens the opportunity to improve their quality of life while enjoying the benefits of a safe, healthy, and vibrant county.”

The plan lays out specific objectives and action items in line with the 2023 All America theme, including “Deliver quality classroom and vocational experiences which open various avenues for individual success from cradle to career.” and “Grow the talent pipeline by increasing career pathways from middle school to post-secondary education.”

Among the plans:

• start a civic engagement program that includes young people and young adults; and

• increase training opportunities for trades, manufacturing, and other high-wage economic sectors.

Engaged Residents

Davie County and its municipalities and public organizations offer a wide variety of opportunities for public engagement. It is not uncommon for former members of advisory boards to seek and win elected office. This was the case with Jenny Stevenson, who served on the steering committee for the 2019 Mocksville Comprehensive Plan and went on to be elected as the town’s first African-American commissioner in 2021.

Mocksville sends a quarterly newsletter with job announcements and a community calendar to all minority churches with a specific invitation to come and share any concerns over a cup of coffee. Another important informal method is intentional access, where elected officials have a booth at festivals and other public events or hold listening meetings around the county.

Davie County works with community partners to address difficult issues, such as holding a community opiod forum, a response to spray-painted speach, an event to hear concerns of African Americans, conversations on mental health and child abuse, a rally supported by local law enforcement against racial violence, support to women after a vulgar Facebook post.

Inclusive Leadership

This is an area where we can do better as a community. Leadership development is essential in any community, and we realize the importance of providing potential leaders with experiential opportunities, including boards, commissions, and steering committees, as well as development and networking opportunities like Leadership Davie, a program of the chamber of commerce.  Local foundations, including Mebane Foundation and Davie Community Foundation, offer leadership development and capacity-building grants.

One necessary change identified while going through the All-America process is offering scholarships for Leadership Davie, as this program has been a stepping-stone for future elected leaders.    

Diversity & Equity

Engagement is a challenging moving target for our community. In the past, building personal relationships with local church leaders was the best way to inform, involve and engage marginalized communities. The second most reliable method was traditional media.

However, declining church attendance means that a significant part of any community we try to engage through this avenue will not be reached. The splintering of traditional media into a myriad of platforms and editorial leanings also makes direct communication more challenging.

Davie and its municipalities use a variety of strategies to maximize community outreach, including relying on personal relationships with community leaders, the local newspaper, digital and mailed hard copy newsletters/notices, flyers, social media, website, the Davie County Blog, local magazine, radio, and television. Creating and building relationships with every resident is not possible, so working with organizations like our local chapter of the NAACP, church leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, nonprofits, and schools helps get the message out to those most impacted.

Davie County does a good job seeking input and participation for various community plans but needs to consider and address some of the other barriers to participation.     

Authentic Communication

Davie County is a relatively small community that is blessed with a local newspaper and larger regional papers, as well as several traditional television news stations that do an acceptable job of news coverage. The community also receives governmental news and updates via telephone/text, website resources, social media posts, blog posts, digital and hard copy newsletters, and direct mailers.

Davie is home to several organizations that have helped facilitate community conversations. Each graduating class of the Leadership Davie program undertakes a community project.

The third section of the All-America City application highlighted programs that will improve the quality of life for youth and, by extension, all members of the community.