Speaking Out: Reflecting on the Year

William Harris, NCLM President

It is difficult to believe that this column and this edition of Southern City comes as my tenure as president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities nears its end.

The time has gone by quickly, and my wonderful interactions with all of you, the members of this organization, have made it a great experience. The involvement of the elected and appointed municipal officials of North Carolina is the true strength of the organization, and it is what allows us to shape our state and our communities in ways that better the lives of citizens.

As I look back over the past year, I am proud that NCLM has been able to both improve its own internal positioning for the future and establish services that assist municipalities in improving theirs.

What do I mean by “positioning for the future?”

For NCLM, that has meant being able to move forward with acquiring the full property at the old League campus site in downtown Raleigh, where the buildings were destroyed by fire. The recent approval of a rezoning by the City of Raleigh will allow us to move forward with the property’s redevelopment, which should put the organization in good financial footing for years to come, even as we work to decide the best course for the re-development and the League’s role.

A side benefit of resolving these issues associated with the property is that we have been able to work through issues with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, and have strengthened our relationship as a result. This relationship is so important because, as sister organizations representing local government, we face many of the same challenges. Doing so with a unified front is often the difference between success and failure before the General Assembly and other state policymakers.

Strengthening our relationship with the UNC School of Government is yet another accomplishment to be proud of over the past year.

As for helping municipalities position themselves for the future, what NCLM has accomplished in the past year through the expansion of service lines is very exciting.

Those offerings help cities and towns comply with the accounting requirements for ARPA grants funds, provide a municipal accounting service program to assist with all bookkeeping, cybersecurity assistance, legal help, and grant writing assistance.

While a lot of these services are aimed at smaller towns with limited resources, here is why it is important to all cities and towns across North Carolina: these services are helping financially struggling towns meet all of their bookkeeping requirements, including conducting their annual audits required by the state. They also are helping to prevent fraud, waste, and cyber theft.

These services come as some towns have seen their finances taken over by the Local Government Commission. Those and others have been the subject of unflattering news accounts related to financial wrongdoing, or critical comments from state officials related to late audits.

When all of our municipalities are doing better, that reflects well on all cities and towns in the state and tamps down negative and often unfair rhetoric.

Obviously, the list of accomplishments by NCLM over the past year goes far beyond those mentioned above. Our staff, and you, continue to meet our advocacy challenges before state legislators, and our relationship-building in that regard has become a strength. Our training offerings for municipal officials strengthens their understanding of issues of governance and assists residents. And our insurance offerings continue to provide a needed service in a changing and challenging environment.

These are not my accomplishments. They are the accomplishments of everyone involved with the League of Municipalities.

I thank all municipal officials, my fellow members of the Board of Directors, NCLM staff, and my own colleagues in Fuquay-Varina for the past year, and I look forward to this continuing commitment to service in the years ahead.