Below is the text from the speech made by Russell Stall as he announced his candidacy for Greenville City Council.
Good morning! It is great to see you all and I so appreciate you being here with me for this announcement.
Thank you Yvonne and Secretary Riley for your kind words. It has been an honor to work with both of you on so many different initiatives in the last decade.
Of course I have with me today the two most important women in my life. My wife, Susan, who has stood beside me for the past 26 years and my mother, Betty, who has been a wise mentor for as long as I can remember. My brother, Edward, is here. He is a man with superb business sense, amazing skills as a granddad, and a great friend.
In 1976 I interviewed Mayor, Max Heller, about the future of Greenville. I was writing an article for Greenville High’s school newspaper and Max agreed to meet with me. We walked down Main Street, and those of you who were here 40 years ago will remember that it looked nothing like it does today. As we walked, Max shared with me his vision for a revitalized and inclusive Greenville. Main Street today is a reflection of the power of vision and planning.
A few years ago someone from Furman University sent me a copy of the thank you note I sent Max after our interview. Max had kept my note and it was included in the papers he donated to Furman. My note to him back in 1976 said, “You have inspired me. One day I would like to run for political office..but never against you!”
So, it has taken 40 years since that pledge, but here I am formally announcing that I am running for the At Large Seat on Greenville City Council.
I have chosen to announce my candidacy for City Council here, beside Liberty Bridge and on the banks of the Reedy River, because this is where Greenville started. This is where Richard Pearis set up his fur trading business in the 1770s.
This park is also where my late sister, Pedrick Lowrey, worked with Anna Kate Hipp to raise funds to create this beautiful park. Through the efforts of the Carolina Foothills Garden Club and the City of Greenville, this place, that was dangerous and overgrown with kudzu just 12 years ago, this place in the center of our city was transformed. Falls Park is now a centerpiece of our downtown where people from all over our community gather to enjoy the natural beauty. Falls Park is another testament to the power of vision and planning, and the wisdom of our councils past.
I make my announcement here, because I am committed to continuing Greenville’s tradition of vision and planning. I am committed to continuing the work of our current council and of Mayor Knox White. I am committed to ensuring that Greenville a wonderful place for all people to live.
In 2005, I founded Greenville Forward. The purpose of this nonprofit organization was to facilitate the bold community vision, Vision 2025. In my 10 years at Greenville Forward, we facilitated community discussions and created connections amongst different constituencies throughout our region.
Through my work with Greenville Forward and the marketing research firm I moved from Atlanta, I provided data driven reports on the medically underserved, race relations, community vibrancy, homelessness, and the brain drain – why our young people were not coming back to Greenville after college.
I have spent 18 years evaluating our community and facilitating connections needed to keep Greenville moving forward.
Having retired from Greenville Forward a year and a half ago, I now have the time and energy to devote to City Council.
Greenville continues to top the “Best of” charts in everything from places to retire to places to raise a family, and my favorite “Top Five Coolest Places in the Country.” With these accolades has come growth and the strain that growth puts on our infrastructure. Managing this growth requires continued vision and planning.
The platform for my campaign focuses on smart growth, affordable housing, and multi-modal transportation outlets. I believe there are 5 key issues that Greenville needs to address:
- Smart, Intentional and Sustainable Growth. We need to manage the growth of Greenville in a deliberate and intentional way. We could very easily fall into being just another suburb along the CharlAtlingHam corridor. Managed growth includes an interesting and appropriate mix of retail, restaurants, housing, and businesses. Consideration must also be given to adequate parking and infrastructure, as well as traffic management.
- Affordable and Workforce Homes and Housing. Few working-class people can afford to live within the Downtown district where they are employed in restaurants, hotels and retail businesses. Many long-time residents are being displaced as property taxes become unaffordable due to gentrification. As more same-looking apartment complexes are constructed, our city is losing some of the charm derived from creative and varied architectural styles.
- Connectivity and Transportation. Many people in Greenville find it challenging to get where they need to go because our bus system is woefully inadequate. Historically, Greenville has not invested as much in its system of public transportation as have other communities of our size. But transportation is much more than just having a vibrant bus system.I dream of a Greenville that has created an inspired multi-modal, vibrant, and inclusive transportation system, including a series of bus and train links, walking trails, bike trails, pedestrian corridors, and transportation choices that minimize the need for vehicles. Traffic and congestion are symptoms of a bigger issue of getting cars off the roads, providing transportation alternatives, and making Greenville more connected.
- Parks and Public Spaces. At last count, there were 38 places in the United States named Greenville. We need to keep the Green in Greenville and strive to be the greenest Greenville. The public spaces in the Downtown area are breath-taking and highly utilized. Anyone who has spent time in Falls Park or on the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail has seen how these public spaces bring people from every walk of life together. Not only do Greenville’s parks create places for people in Greenville to gather, but they also create a critical sense of place, personality, and authenticity.
- Safe and Authentic Neighborhoods. As Greenville grows, we need to find ways to preserve the unique personalities and histories of our neighborhoods. Simply tearing down swaths of neighborhoods and constructing generic complexes with no green spaces or gathering places can destroy the sense of community. An additional part of this is ensuring that our neighborhoods are safe, and crime free.
- Long-Term Plan for the Future. Greenville is at crossroads. While enjoying the fruits of strong planning and visionary leadership over the years, Greenville must not rest of its laurels. We must have the courage to plan to continue our growth deliberately and intentionally, and be smart about planning for our future to continue to thrive.Over the years Greenville has been guided by visionary long-term planning. With the year 2025 just 8 years away, it is time to develop a new, useable comprehensive plan that will lead Greenville into the future. Part of this plan will be in finding ways to address a crumbling infrastructure including roads, sewer and storm water. We are handling a lot more flushes than we did a decade ago.
David Shi, in a talk at one of our vision update gatherings issued a challenge for Greenville which still holds true.
“We need to risk more than some think is safe;
Care more than some think is wise; and
Dream more than some think is possible.”
We still have some work to do, and I hope you will support me as I try to help move Greenville into what is possible.
To learn more about my position on the issues most important to me for Greenville, I encourage you to go to www.russellstall.com, which went live this morning.
Thank you for being here today, and I hope you will join my campaign as we continue to move Greenville forward.
I am here to listen and connect. I believe I am the right person, in the right place, at the right time. I hope you agree.
Thank you for your support and for spreading the word. Help me to continue to continue the magic of Greenville.
I will now take a few questions.