Jim Buice column: New town manager finds treasure picking up trash

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2022

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You might say that James Ayers “hit the ground running” even before officially becoming the new town manager this week in Lewisville.
At least that was councilman Fred Franklin’s comment in last month’s meeting of the Lewisville Town Council when Ayers was introduced.
Franklin was referring to Ayers jumping right in and picking up litter as part of the Lewisville Beautification Committee’s Fall Clean Sweep in October.
Then Mayor Mike Horn chimed in.
“He already hit the ground bending over with the road cleanup,” Horn said with a laugh, “and being able to participate without them knowing who he was, but somebody figured it out.”
Of course, everyone knows now about the new manager, who admitted to paying a visit to Lewisville long before his interview to get a feel for the town. He obviously liked what he saw.
And collecting trash with folks in the town is just one of the ways Ayers wants to connect with the community.
“There are so many things that make it desirable,” Ayers said. “You look at the projects going on that simply enhance a sense of community with folks enjoying all the amenities that are here.
“It’s amazing what the Warrens have done for the community (with the creation of Jack Warren Park and Mary Alice Warren Community Center) and folks coming together for things like moving The Nissen House down the street and turning it into a place where you can have events.”
He couldn’t help but notice — while picking up trash on that Saturday morning — that people had already started setting up their chairs at Shallowford Square, the outdoor venue showplace, for a concert that night.
“It all keeps coming back to community — not just vibrant but involved and engaged in both preserving but also moving forward,” he said.

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Speaking of town managers, Ayers is the third new hire — out of the three local municipalities — for that position in this area in 2022.
However, Ayers, who most recently served as the director of community and economic development for the Foothills Regional Commission and was the town manager of Manteo for nearly three years before that, is the only newbie among the trio to make a move here as he replaces Hank Perkins.
Just after the arrival of the new year, Scott Buffkin left Clemmons for personal reasons, and his spot was taken by Mike Gunnell, who held several positions with the village since being hired in 2012 and was elevated after serving briefly as interim manager.
Several months later, not long after Perkins revealed he was leaving Lewisville for a similar position in Lake Lure, Lee Rollins, Bermuda Run’s longtime manager, announced he was departing to explore what might be his next step.
His replacement, Andrew Meadwell, who served as senior planner and director of Davie County Development and Facilities Services for the past 18 years, just came over from the other side of the county.
I recall a conversation I had with Meadwell after he assumed his new job in Bermuda Run when we were discussing growth in the area and saved the following quote.
“We’re not Clemmons size yet,” he said. “I’m sure some people would probably prefer to move that river either west or east. I haven’t really figured that out yet.”
I doubt anyone else has either.
But speaking of growth, all three managers are dealing with that in different ways, but I liked the way Ayers coined a phrase describing the area of planning with a name that fits.
“I observed that an assistant town manager in another jurisdiction didn’t call it the Planning Department,” he said. “He called it the Growth Management Department. You do need to have a real balance. You have to put your eye on the future.”