The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce presented Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger with the Public Private Partnership Award on Feb. 1.
Reagan Greene Pruitt, the 2018 chamber board chair, said the award is meant to recognize community service that builds bridges between the community’s public and private sectors.
"This year’s award is presented to an elected official with a clear vision for the future," said a press release from the Town of Chapel Hill. "A champion for small business with commercial development chops, and one of the hardest working elected officials we can remember.”
According to the press release, Hemminger is an accessible leader.
The “clear vision for the future” that Greene Pruitt referred to includes Hemminger's relationship with businesses and environmental and community initiatives.
“Mayor Hemminger has a strong interest and desire to increase our town's commercial tax base,” said Jeanne Brown, Hemminger’s mayoral aide.
To do this, Brown said Hemminger plans to foster startup businesses and work on getting more commercial space. She said Chapel Hill’s tax base is heavily residential, but to generate more jobs for Chapel Hill residents, Hemminger plans to focus on commercial growth.
One initiative that Hemminger has pioneered is the creation of a new Enterprise Zone along Millhouse Road meant to encourage economic development in northwest Chapel Hill. The town council approved the first development project in the new zone in October 2017.
Brown said another aspect of building the Chapel Hill economy includes better parking in downtown Chapel Hill and better lighting in certain areas so visitors and residents feel safer.
Hemminger has also partaken in a number of environmental initiatives, including the Jordan Lake One Water plan. Hemminger has led efforts to bring together leaders from other municipalities that are affected by the Jordan Lake ecosystem. According to the JLOW work plan, the initiative aims to develop relationships between stakeholders to solve watershed issues.
Other environmental projects include promoting the use of LED lighting in the town and collaborating with Duke Energy to have an energy saver program.
Another more recent project she has supported is the Chapel Hill Historic Civil Rights Commemorations Task Force, which seeks to identify major occurrences during the struggle for Civil Rights.
Besides documenting this history, the initiative seeks to display a timeline which identifies people, places and events that should be remembered for their part in the struggle for civil rights.
The task force recently honored a group called the Chapel Hill Nine. On Feb. 28, 1960, nine Black Chapel Hill teenagers entered into the Colonial Drugstore on Franklin Street, sat down at a table and refused to leave when they were denied service because of the color of their skin.
Overall, Brown said Hemminger prides herself on being accessible.
“She really is a people person and enjoys hearing all different sides of an issue and lots of perspectives," Brown said. "She really wants to see the creativity in our town increase. She’s always willing to give her time and meet with people."
Hemminger is extending this accessibility not just to businesses in Chapel Hill, but to teenagers, Brown said.
In 2018, Hemminger and the town council gathered data from focus groups with 180 youth aged 11 to 18 and convened several youth-serving organizations. This has become known as the “Youth Initiative.” Brown said Hemminger wants to make Chapel Hill more teen-friendly by directing policy questions toward the needs of teenagers.
Hemminger has not limited her efforts to just the corporate sector, but has tried to involve herself in the environmental, community and cultural aspects of Chapel Hill, Greene Pruitt said.
"(Pam is) an accessible collaborator, convener and relationship builder who shows real leadership in an increasingly fractured time," she said.
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