Town & State, On the Road

Scott Mooneyham, Director of Political Communication and Coordination

For several years now, NCLM’s Town & State Dinner held in Raleigh has been a rousing success, bringing state legislators and municipal officials together to break bread and connect on issues important to local communities.

In 2024, the event took on a new form. Actually, the event became many events.

The Town & State Dinner became “Town & State Dinner: From Jones St. to Main St.,” with five regional dinners held across the state. The idea, in the year of the legislative short session (and with legislators not reconvening in Raleigh until late April), was to enable locally elected officials and state legislators to meet closer to home, better facilitating the ability of everyone to participate and to meet in a smaller, more collegial setting.

Based on the events, their attendance and the smiles seen each night, these five events seem to have exceeded every expectation, with all five sold out.

Town & State Dinner: Pinehurst

“The conversations here really show the importance of public service at all levels,” said NCLM Immediate-Past President and Fuquay-Varina Town Commissioner William Harris, at the dinner held in Pinehurst.

In addition to Pinehurst, the other events were held in Concord, Winston-Salem, Hickory and Goldsboro. At each stop, Presidents Harris, NCLM First Vice President Mark-Anthony Middleton or Second Vice-President Martha Sue Hall joined with host city mayors in welcoming the guests and discussing the importance of the dialogue between municipal officials and state legislators.

Harris, after proudly showing off a photo of a tee shot that he had once put within four feet of the hole at Pinehurst No. 2, pointed out that at both the local and state levels, elected officials work to better their communities and the state as a whole.

House Minority Leader Robert Reives of Chatham County, picked up on that theme at the event in Pinehurst.

“You are on the ground,” he said. “You help us make good decisions.”

Town & State Dinner: Concord

At the event in Concord, Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton of Cabarrus County praised NCLM for its professionalism as an advocacy organization, noting how Executive Director Rose Vaughn Williams and Director of Government Affairs Erin Wynia inform and educate legislators responsibly with the municipal take on important public policy issues.

While the focus was on relationship-building rather than policy, Newton did note that tough conversations will have to continue regarding how to address housing affordability.

Town & State Dinner: Winston-Salem

Also, with remarks focusing on communication and occasionally touching on policy, House Rules Chairman Destin Hall of Lenoir spoke at the event in Hickory; Sen. Paul Lowe of Winston-Salem and Rep. Stephen Ross spoke at the dinner in Winston-Salem; and House Majority Leader John Bell addressed attendees in Goldsboro.

The most important remarks, though, were neither from the NCLM officer hosts, the host-city mayors welcoming guests or the legislative leaders. They came during the conversations between municipal officials and legislators, whether sharing the latest economic development in their community or common concerns and challenges.

Town & State Dinner: Hickory

Even as dinner and dessert had finished, the conversations continued as groups gathered near tables to make a last point, share a last thought.

Next year, as the legislative long session is held, NCLM expects to return to its single-event Town & State Dinner format held in Raleigh. Based on early returns from these regional dinners, some form of them may well become a staple for future short-session years.

NCLM would like to thank all of the host cities, their staffs and mayors—Concord Mayor Bill Dusch, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, Pinehurst Mayor Patrick Pizzella, Hickory Mayor Hank Guess and Goldsboro Mayor Charles Gaylor.

Town & State Dinner: Goldsboro