The past experiences that shaped the lives of two of Spartanburg’s new leaders are likely to help shape Spartanburg’s future.
New Spartanburg City Manager Chris Story and new Spartanburg County Administrator Cole Alverson were featured at December’s Caffeinated Conversations, sharing their Spartanburg stories, their leadership philosophies and the issues and initiatives that will steer Spartanburg’s future.
“Spartanburg has been great to me. I’ve had terrific experiences since the day we moved here,” Story said. “I want Spartanburg to be as good to everybody as it has been to me.”
Alverson, who was born and raised in Spartanburg County, said his new position will let him leave a mark on the community where he was raised. He said he’s been encouraged by an active County Council with concern for not only Spartanburg County’s present, but its future.
“This is an opportunity for me to leave a lasting impact on this community,” he said. “We have an actively engaged County Council. At the end of the day, it’s all about helping Spartanburg. My vision is that we continue what progress we have already built into the future and continue to transform Spartanburg County.”
Alverson and Story both discussed using initiatives already underway and other programs and efforts to shrink the gap between the haves and have-nots across Spartanburg.
Story said one particular piece of data – showing that the difference in life expectancy in a more affluent part of Spartanburg is 17 years higher than a lower-income area – provided a sort of road map for work he hopes to put in on the subject of socioeconomic and health equity.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “Poverty kills and shortens lives and results in people not knowing their grandchildren and people having no leisure time. Narrowing that gap and increasing the support this community provides to the low end of the spectrum is the focus of my vision for this community.”
Alverson said governing Spartanburg County can be difficult because of the differences between areas. The needs of Enoree or Duncan can be very different from the needs of Landrum or Pacolet, he said.
But there is common ground, like making sure people are able to work and that economic development branches out to the entire county.
“We want to remove barriers to work. We want to continue to be business-friendly,” he said.
Story said his two major priorities are investing in early-childhood education – working to improve outcomes for children ages 0-4 – and working to improve outcomes for African American males age 15-24.
“Some of the stuff we’re lining up resources to attack has existed for a very, very long time,” Story said. “We’re going to be beating our heads against those issues for a very long time, so the depth of commitment from our community partners and organizations working toward the same goal is very important.”
In the coming years, the collaborative nature of Spartanburg, the city, and Spartanburg, the county, will be on display like never before. A city-county joint complex will be built and house operations from both organizations.
“The city-county relationship is so important,” Story said. “People brag on Spartanburg’s collaborative culture. That cannot be taken for granted. This sort of default culture of collaboration and teamwork requires people to choose for that to be the case.”
Alverson and Story said their collaborative vision is participatory and engaging, meaning residents need to make sure their voices are heard. As initiatives and goals for those initiatives are developed, it falls on residents to inform the city and county governments what should happen, they said. From there, its on them to deliver.
“The default setting for us is, ‘okay, who else needs to be on this bus, who’s going to lead?’ That’s sort of the mindset we have,” Story said.
Written by Zach Fox, Spartanburg Chamber.