Kristen Smith

Ideas for Engaging Local Citizens

From Kristen Smith, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. I go to a lot of meetings, and serve on a lot of committees.  But most of the meetings are part of my job and I think board service is an important part of being a community member. But in recent discussions at the municipal level, there has been a lot of talk about “community engagement” and “citizen input.”  How do we gather it? How do we incorporate it?  And I worry that the first response seems to be, “Let’s create a steering committee” or “We should host a public information meeting.”...

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Tech Heads

At my job, we have a new intern who is a student at East Chapel Hill High School.  This week he helped stuff envelopes with invoices and letters and could not seem to get over our inefficiency.  He wondered aloud – he has the unfortunate privilege of sharing an office with me – why in the world did he have to stuff, seal, and stamp, when he could just with the one simple keystroke, email the same information. Maybe it’s this generation, maybe he’s lazy (I really don’t think so – no senior slack for this guy!), or maybe… it’s the connected community we live in.  But what can you do in Chapel Hill when you’re a tech head?  Here’s a rundown of resources for the Orange County-based technophile. Most people may think “gadget geek” when they think tech head and there are plenty of places in Chapel Hill to BUY new technologies.  At The Shops at Eastgate, get the latest smart phone at Best Buy and get even more gadgets at Radio Shack.  Or if you’re at University Mall, you can find another Radio Shack and you can pay homage to the place where I got my very first cell phone.  This is dating myself, but that was my junior year at Carolina.  Other college students may head to Franklin Street to pick up the latest game for...

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Students Without Cars

You’ve probably already seen them.  As my friend who just moved to Carrboro from Durham described the ones she saw in Harris Teeter: young men, dressed in polos with Croakies around their necks, carrying cases of Natural Light.  But that’s just a certain species in the family.    But the entire kingdom – those that attend the University of North Carolina – are back.     A lot of natives have a love-hate relationship with students.  The university makes us a center of innovation and there’s no denying the students’ economic impact.  But the invincibility with which they walk across the street at any time, at any hour, can be maddening.  But empathize with the youngest members of the species.  They’ve come from down the road or from across the world, with lofty dreams and crazy schemes, and a backpack in tow.  And not one thing can stop them.  Except for one thing…they don’t have a car.   When I was a freshman at Carolina, I felt like I was experiencing particular frustration, because I KNEW everything that was out there and I couldn’t really get around as easily as I did before.  So, what can you do in Chapel Hill with students without cars?   The only way I avoided the “freshman fifteen” was because I lived in the dorm named for the student who WALKED all the way...

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Green Thumbs

I’ve been intrigued by the title of “master gardener” ever since my aunt Anne achieved the prestigious title.  But my interest has never been piqued to a degree that I would pursue the certification, let alone learn enough to keep beautiful green gifts I’ve received alive.  However, I do know enough to know that there is more than a garden variety of things to do with green thumbs in Chapel Hill.    No matter the focus, I think one of the best ways to become a master is to WATCH a master.  And we’re lucky to have many masters in gardening to observe the actual fruits of their labor.   The master of them all: The North Carolina Botanical Garden: Known for the carnivorous collection, you can see the amazing diversity of flora of the Old North State all right off Mason Farm Road.    The twin masters: Two sisters that live on Gimghoul Road in Chapel Hill have opened their home garden to passers-by.  No way could my sister and I produce such beautiful plant life.    The sign at the entrance of Bernice Wade and Barbara Stiles’ garden on Gimghoul Road   The master of Montrose: This is still on my list of places to visit, but the historic garden Montrose was featured in the New York Times this year.    Rival rose gardens: If the rose...

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Southern Gentlemen (TM)

NOTE: Southern Gentleman and Southern Gentlemen are registered trademarks of the South. All rights reserved. Use, duplication or disclosure restricted by their good breeding and whether their mothers would approve. I’m a native to Orange County.  Well, to be honest, my mom cringes that I have to put down the City of Medicine as my birthplace, since I was birthed at then-named Durham General.  But I didn’t realize how rare a species I was until a good friend asked as an icebreaker while presenting at a Chamber event, how many other folks were not bred or dead, but born Tar Heels.  We were the only ones.    Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  We’re a transient community, part of a region that supports an NHL team, and pretty close to a municipality known as the Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.  But don’t let that deter you – a Southern Gentleman™ can make himself quite at home in the Southern part of heaven.    But what is a Southern Gentleman™?  Well, I know what I’m looking for – but maybe someone else should define our audience.  Taking cues from a couple of sources – here and here (the second one referencing the disadvantageous gender ratio at Carolina) – there are a few characteristics that mark all Southern Gentlemen™:  dress (the apparel), decorum (the etiquette), dancing, and not to mention the drinking...

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Babies!

When I brought up with one of my best friends — who also happens to be a mom — that my next assignment for discovering and compiling things to do in Chapel Hill was babies, she gave me this advice:   “Oh that’s easy.  Tell them they have six months.  They can bring their baby wherever they want.  And then it’s over.”   Saying it’s over might be a bit of hyperbole, but I get it.  Our conversation had taken place over an elegant dinner at Acme, followed by delicious ice cream from Tar Heel Creamery, then a sophisticated cocktail at Pecadillo.  It was a wonderful evening, and maybe we could have pulled it off with baby in tow, but definitely not with a toddling almost-two year old.   But I do believe, that although not covered in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, there is plenty to do in Chapel Hill with your wee one!    Me, Jane Hoppen, and Angela Paige, with Maddie, one of my favorite wee ones.  To support a healthy future for babies like Maddie, click here.   No matter what age you are, first things first.  How are you going to FEED your baby in Chapel Hill?  Well, maybe your baby isn’t going to be eating from the fine selection of local restaurants, but maybe you’re like my friend who lives in Raleigh...

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Party Animals

The Triangle, especially Chapel Hill, is considered a really smart place — where there are more PhDs per capita than any other metropolitan statistical area [still looking for the citation, but I really have heard it from multiple sources].    So, maybe our celebratory nature and proclivity for partying isn’t center stage, but I promise that you can find everything you need to entertain the party animal – whether it’s crazy cousin or a capricious colleague – in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.    Now, one can celebrate ANY day of the week in Orange County, but there are a few nights of the year that are legendary in our town:   Halloween: Often the subject of urban legend, October 31 in Chapel Hill has drawn in the crowds in costume for years.  Though recently, there have been efforts to make the evening more targeted to the locals (understandably because of the cost of cleanup to the Town), Franklin Street is still particularly fun when dressed as a ghoul or goblin after a few gin and tonics.    Living in the 80s: Still have those leg warmers? Couldn’t bear the thought of tossing that “Members Only” jacket? Heck, neon is back.  So, you’re bound to have something to wear to the WXYC 80’s Dance Party.  UNC’s student radio station annually hosts a party honoring a previous decade at Cat’s Cradle,...

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People From Kansas

This week, I expressed frustration about a current narrative going around town, one that poses the question, “Has Chapel Hill lost its mojo?”  I countered that the question shouldn’t be have we “lost our mojo,” but have we lost our “mojo ambassadors?”    But it’s not fair for me to wonder where our ambassadors are, without putting my money where my mouth is.  So, here’s the beginning of an independent study in How To Becoming Ambassadors from the County of Orange, no political fundraising or foreign language study required.    In discussing how we explore and show off how cool Chapel Hill is, I spoke with a couple of members of the Chapelboro crew about how we could talk about “what to do in Chapel Hill” with different groups.  Like “what to in Chapel Hill with your in-laws,” or “what to do in Chapel Hill with a precocious pre-teen.”  And the news director of a certain radio station offered, “you know, like what to do with people from Kansas.”    Yes!  People from Kansas!  Turns out my dad is one of those people.  Born in Emporia and schooled in Topeka and Lawrence, my dad eventually found his way to the southern part of heaven.  (Former UNC provost Bernadette Gray-Little did the reverse of that journey.)   Although not a Jayhawker myself, this is my humble attempt to give a...

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