To say Leadership Raleigh Class 37 has come full circle is an understatement. Many of us remember our first day of class which focused on Quality of Life. That day we had the opportunity to hear from some of Raleigh’s biggest developers and go behind the scenes on how they have contributed to Raleigh’s growth over the years. We heard about their successes, their failures, but most importantly how much local government impacted their business. I remember many of our classmates looking forward to this day to hear from our local government leaders and get their point of view. So the day finally came, and it was definitely jam packed.
Our day started with a tour of one of Raleigh’s most ambitious projects to date, Dix Park. On July 24, 2015, the City of Raleigh purchased the Dorothea Dix Campus from the State of North Carolina for the purpose of developing a destination park. As stated above, the planning and development of Dorothea Dix Park represents one of the most exciting and ambitious new park projects in America.
Our tour covered the history of the buildings, land, and legacy of Dorothea Dix, the current use of the area as the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services and the steps the City will take in planning a future park.
The city’s motto for this park is “A Park for Everyone, Built by Everyone.” The Master Plan process was governed by a community-led, multi-tier structure. On February 19, 2019, the Dorothea Dix Park Master Plan was adopted unanimously by Raleigh City Council. This was an important and exciting milestone for everyone in this community. I think we can all say we are excited about this project and the impact it will have in Raleigh for years to come.
For more information and upcoming summer activities schedule visit:
Our next stop on the day was the Wake County Justice Center. Our new Justice Center opened in 2013 and has 19 courtrooms with space for four more in the future. We first started with a County/City Manager Panel. Our panelists were Wake County Manager David Ellis, Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall, and Town of Cary Mayor Pro Tem Lori Bush. They all provided insight on their day-to-day activities, how much collaboration is involved between the cities and Wake County, and how local government is so important to our day-to-day lives. Many people focus on the national government and don’t realize that many of the policies that affect our daily lives start at the local level. I remember hearing the same thing during the Quality Of Life day and since then I have made a conscious effort to follow local politics and find ways that I can get involved. The first place to start change is to talk to our local leaders!
After our panel discussion, we participated in a Q&A session with Judge Jefferson Griffin. Judge Griffin was born and raised in Red Oak, N.C. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then graduated from North Carolina Central School of Law. He also serves as a First Lieutenant in the North Carolina Army National Guard as a JAG Officer. Currently, Judge Griffin is a district court judge for the 10th Judicial District, serving Wake County. Judge Griffin provided insight on how the Justice Center is set up and the daily life of a judge. He currently is presiding over cases in family court and it was very interesting to learn about his judicial philosophy and how he goes about judging cases.
Our next stop of the day was the Legislative Building, where all the magic happens! There was a tour planned, as well as a General Assembly panel, but both houses were in session and were voting on the budget so our plans changed. We were able to sit in the gallery of both the houses and see them debate on the floor for various bills and amendments. There is a lot going on at the same time and things can definitely get heated. Everyone has their views and when there are hot-button topics the debate can go on for a long time. Since the houses were in session, we ended up doing the panel with some of their young staffers. We learned some history about the building, their day-to-day life, and some of the upcoming bills on the slate. We did get Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, (D – Wake County), to stop by for a few minutes during a break to talk to us and give some insight which was great. I wish we would have gotten some one-on-one time with more representatives and senators because I know our class had many questions from our day with the developers earlier this year. But this whole afternoon showed how the government works. Things are constantly in motion and can change at any given minute.
Our last stop of the day was happy hour at Norris House. Norris House is a beautiful house in downtown Raleigh that has been restored and available for private parties and special events. Definitely check them out if you are in downtown.
What a fantastic year with all the classmates. I hope all of you have valued this once in a lifetime experience as much as I have. Over the last year, I have learned so much about Raleigh and plan on getting involved and making an impact. I enjoyed getting to know all of you over the last year and hope we can all stay in touch. Thanks to David and Jackie for their support over the last year as well. Lastly, I am looking forward to seeing everyone at graduation and celebrating. For those who can’t make it, let’s definitely keep in touch.