After accepting an offer to become the 12th city manager in Rock Hill history, David Vehaun talked with The Herald about key projects and issues he will inherit when he takes office later this month.
City Council members named Vehaun last week as their choice to succeed the retiring Carey Smith. A graduate of Northwestern High School and Winthrop University, Vehaun came to work for the city in 1986 and now oversees the annual budget.
A vote on Vehaun's hiring is scheduled for Oct. 11. Vehaun expects to start work Oct. 18.
Talk about your hopes for the Bleachery textile site. What should Rock Hill residents expect in the near term?
"Obviously, demolition is under way. They've made great progress. The main building is almost down."
"Jobs are a real concern that we all have now. That'll be the main focus, in terms of getting the area up and going. Depending on how the national economy recovers - there are a lot of variables I can't answer right now. We want to see it develop as quickly as possible."
What is the status of Riverwalk, the planned community going up at the former Celanese site?
"We've issued the first $10.5 million in tax increment bonds. The developer is using those to build infrastructure. You've seen the initial trails and roadways, which are starting to go in now... You'll see more and more happening out there over the next 12 to 18 months."
What about the velodrome and cycling center planned there?
"We're working on financing options that will help the developer with that project. It will be a mix of multiple financing sources...just like with Manchester Meadows. We've got one $200,000 sponsorship in place (Gita Sporting Goods, a Charlotte-based bicycle equipment distributor, bought naming rights in July).
"We're working as hard as we can. That's all I can really tell you."
What will you do in the transition period to prepare yourself for the job?
"I'm looking at all departments, trying to get a feel for when they meet. I can't go to every single department, but I do want to be able to go to meetings on a regular basis. Maybe once a quarter, I'd like to go to the police department staff meetings.
"The good thing about having a good strategic plan is, it doesn't matter who the manager is. The work program is not dependent on the manager. It's pretty clear what you're going to be doing."
You talked in your opening speech about a commitment to open government. Can you elaborate on that?
"You can go online right now and look at the city's financial and performance dashboards. It lets you know how every dollar has been spent. That was not there two years ago.
"We're going to look for ways to make information available and get it out there for our citizens. I didn't know what financial dashboards were two years ago. There are probably things out there we can do. When we find out what those things are, we want to work to make it available.
"The big problem we face in government is getting information out in a way that really makes sense. Most of our information is available. It's usually not in a format that makes sense to anyone. We need to continue to chase down ways to make that information available-- in ways that citizens can appreciate and understand."