Given the recent challenges across the United States with confederate statues, building names, and town names, public service leaders are charged with listening and navigating highly emotional and challenging spaces to best serve the public. In Chapel Hill, there were challenges with Silent Sam on campus. Silent Sam is a confederate statue that once stood on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus in the upper quad (McCorkle Place). It was granted to the University in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In recent years, there has been growing controversy over the existence and placement of the statue on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. After years of debate and days of protest, Silent Sam was torn down the day right before the first day of classes in August 2018. (To learn more about Silent Sam’s History, click here).
However, these challenges reach farther than UNC-Chapel Hill and its surrounding towns. Currently, I work for Chatham County Manager’s Office and we are navigating the removal of a Confederate statue at our Historic Courthouse in Pittsboro, NC. Chatham is a neighboring county to Orange County (where Chapel Hill and Carrboro are located). Since March of 2019, there has been a large push to remove the Confederate Statue placed at the Courthouse in the Town’s center. (To learn more about the contention in Chatham around the monument, click here). The list of places working through these types of challenges does not end here. Given the current times, these are some of the challenges that public service leaders are continuing to face.
To support future public service leaders and current practitioners, the MPA Diversity Committee hosted a breakfast panel about managing conflict and promoting inclusion in difficult political climates on 11/6/19. The Committee brought three panelists that represented the city, county, and non-profit contexts of public service.
For the city context, the Diversity Committee invited Maurice Jones who is the current Town Manager of Chapel Hill and served as the previous Town Manager of Charlottesville during the Unite the Right rally. Beverly Scurry represented the county context by speaking about her experience as the Orange County Board of Health Strategic Plan Manager and community organizer in Alamance County. For the non-profit sector, the Committee invited Chanel Nestor who serves as an Adjunct Lecturer of Rural Sociology at NC A&T and Farmers’ Market Coordinator of the Authentically Alamance Farmers’ Market Network in Alamance County. Chanel was able to speak not only about the non-profit context, but also the rural context.
The panel served as a great opportunity to learn about implementing inclusive measures and goals into strategic planning, balancing competing values, and equity implementation in rural versus urban settings. Each member of the panel brought a unique perspective from their personal and professional experiences of navigating difficult political climates through managing conflict and continuing to promote inclusion. The panelists’ different specialties demonstrated the true intersectionality and opportunity for inclusion in public service.