Why do we connect emotionally with some places and not others? Why does that matter? Author and consultant Peter Kageyama will discuss the economic benefits to emotional engagement and best practices for people-centered placemaking at our 2019 Regional Conference: Creative Solutions for Thriving Communities.

This year as CCOG celebrates 50 years of service to the region, the conference’s unifying theme is looking forward to the next half century of building strong, resilient communities. This one-day event, full of big-picture inspiration and locally‐relevant solutions, offers educational, networking and skill-building activities for elected officials, local government staff and civic leaders. Plenary and breakout sessions will provide creative strategies and best practices in the areas of affordable housing, economic growth, transportation, cyber security, Medicaid, redevelopment, emergency response and communications.

Past conference attendees have remarked that the conference delivers value each year and that they are proud to be part of an event that offers practical solutions for many of the challenges that communities face. ACIP credits are available.

Why do we connect emotionally with some places and not others? Why does that matter? Author and consultant Peter Kageyama will discuss the economic benefits to emotional engagement and best practices for people-centered placemaking at our 2019 Regional Conference: Creative Solutions for Thriving Communities.

This year as CCOG celebrates 50 years of service to the region, the conference’s unifying theme is looking forward to the next half century of building strong, resilient communities. This one-day event, full of big-picture inspiration and locally‐relevant solutions, offers educational, networking and skill-building activities for elected officials, local government staff and civic leaders. Plenary and breakout sessions will provide creative strategies and best practices in the areas of affordable housing, economic growth, transportation, cyber security, Medicaid, redevelopment, emergency response and communications.

Past conference attendees have remarked that the conference delivers value each year and that they are proud to be part of an event that offers practical solutions for many of the challenges that communities face. ACIP credits are available.

Pre-Conference Workshop: Love Where You Live, Putting Emotional Engagement into Practice

Thursday, March 7, 2019, 9:00 a.m. – Noon
Centralina Council of Governments, 9815 David Taylor Drive, Charlotte, NC 28262

Join Alliance for Innovation Senior Fellow Peter Kageyama, award-winning author of For the Love of Cities and Love Where You Live, for a workshop on creating emotionally-engaging places. This workshop is designed for community leaders who are looking to take simple, immediate and largely inexpensive steps towards a better, more interesting and lovable community. Don’t miss your opportunity for community-specific attention from a national expert!

Highlights Include:
• How to marshal your co-creators, inspired people in your midst that are making things happen in your city
• The importance of starting small
• Finding your way to “yes”
• Embracing temporary
• Finding your FUN

Cost is $90/person. Registration includes lunch and a complimentary copy of Peter’s latest book. Space is limited. AICP credits are available. Communities are encouraged to bring staff teams representing multiple disciplines and experience levels to enhance the discussion. CLICK HERE to register or click here for the event flyer.

Regional Conference: Creative Solutions for Thriving Communities

Friday, March 8, 2019, 8:00 a.m. 3:30 p.m.
UNC Charlotte, Popp Martin Student Center, 8755 Student Union Lane, Charlotte, NC 28223


Peter Kageyama: For the Love of Cities

Why do we connect emotionally with some places and not others? Why does that matter? Author and consultant Peter Kageyama will discuss the economic benefits to emotional engagement and best practices for people-centered placemaking for communities of all sizes. Learn how to fall in love with your city and how to engage your citizens as development resources. Peter will emphasize issues related to community growth and the importance of small projects.



Tim Lowry: Essential Stories for Effective Communication

Stories can effectively communicate vision, goals, values, direction and purpose. A well-told story, strategically placed into personal presentations, advertising campaigns, social media and one-on-one conversations can make a huge difference in political campaigns, board meetings and office management. Learn to replace the sound bite with meaningful stories that show who you are, describe what you are doing, explain why you are taking action and invite others to get involved.


Local and Regional Transit 101

In a region experiencing a growth rate of 120 people per day and known for its economic opportunities and excellent quality of life, will your community be positioned to offer the array of transportation options necessary to maintain or enhance what is in place today? The Transit 101 session will address the most common myths we hear about transit and supply you with the technical language and knowledge to understand what types of transit modes and associated land use decisions will offer your community the greatest value and opportunity for decades to come.

The Changing Face of Healthcare in NC

In a rapidly-changing healthcare environment focused on access, quality and perhaps above all cost, learn about emerging trends in healthcare laws, regulations, funding policies and Medicaid transformations facing North Carolina. With the state and local governments struggling to contain healthcare costs, it is crucial to learn about new efforts related to Medicare and Medicaid reform to help you adapt and be successful. This session will explore issues around access and quality of health care, what drives the cost of health care, what is being done in North Carolina to maintain access and quality while controlling costs.

Creating and Delivering an Interactive Regional Economic Development Strategy

The economic development landscape continues to change in the accelerated, modern era of 247 instantaneous communications and the Internet of Things. How can this region compete and collaborate for future economic opportunities? What strategies can your community implement from the 2017-2022 Prosperity for Greater Charlotte Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy? Hear how we can forge stronger economic ties through use of a new Centralina Economic Development Commission web-based communication platform with innovative real-time data tools.

Welcome to the Skills Economy

This informative session will show how local governments and non-profit organizations can drive organization change and thrive in this new world of work where skills are the new currency. Centralina Workforce Development Board Director David Hollars will offer insights and ideas on how to attract, engage and retain great talent.

Redevelopment Success Stories

Across the region, communities are identifying and reenergizing their assets, turning vacant and underused parcels and buildings into property tax generators. Kannapolis is planning a $52 million downtown ballpark, aimed for a 2020 opening, and Gastonia is planning a 16-acre entertainment district and baseball stadium on the west side of downtown. Both communities are planning for mixed-use developments and investing in their cores to create regional destinations and local economic impacts. Hear how Kannapolis and Gastonia have moved major projects forward through partnerships, a shared vision and clear near-term strategies.

Cyber Security: Preparation and Management

What happens when cyber criminals target your community? Hear from Mecklenburg County officials about their experiences when faced with a ransomware attack in late 2017. Learn about the immediate and longer-term impacts, the steps needed to respond, lessons learned and how the county has adjusted policies and practices – both technologically and behaviorally, in the time since. Learn about the steps your community should be taking now to prepare for the eventual attack.

Lightning Round: Regional “Chatter” on Quality of Life

All around the region communities of all sizes are taking innovative approaches to improve the quality of life for their residents. Topics include mobility, opioid abuse, greenway expansion, economic strategy and water management. You’ll hear a variety of perspectives on creating livable communities in a rapid-fire style from several presenters using a Pecha Kucha-like approach. Pecha Kucha (Japanese for “chatter) was developed as a way to share important ideas in a short amount of time. One simple ground rule applies: 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. We’ll give six minutes and 40 seconds to each presenter, then move on to the next one. If you have a short attention span but are interested in best practices for creating places where people want to live, work and grow their businesses, check out this session!

It’s Going to Happen. Resources and Best Practices for Preparing, Managing and Recovering from a Disaster

Major events, incidents and disasters can strain community services and infrastructure at all stages (before, during and after). This session will focus on best practices and resources available to local governments to help plan and prepare for how to respond, manage and recover from major events, incidents and disasters.

What’s Housing Got to Do with It?

Housing to meet the needs of those working, living and aging is becoming increasingly challenging for many of our communities. This session will engage attendees to identify barriers and potential practical solutions for creating housing that supports walkable, affordable and vibrant neighborhoods with a sense of place.

CLICK HERE to register for the conference and/or the workshop.

Silver Level Sponsors

Bronze Level Sponsors

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Victoria R. Avramović is the Assistant Director for Community and Economic Development at CCOG. In this role she facilitates support and access to multiple federal and state funding opportunities, grants and administrative resources. Victoria also develops and promotes the implementation of the region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which identifies high growth industries and occupations, and develops strategies to facilitate growth. In addition, she manages stakeholder engagement across multi-sector initiatives and oversees various programs aimed at advancing community development across the region.

Greg Beal, CZO, serves as the Planning and Development Director and Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Mount Holly. Greg has overseen numerous projects from inception to completion and actively seeks to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, public art initiatives and healthy and active living into plans. Greg also serves on numerous steering committees and boards, including the Mount Holly Chamber Board of Directors, Montcross Chamber Advisory Board, the Mount Holly EDC and Mount Holly Bee City USA.

Marcella Beam is the Chief Community Health Officer and Executive Director of Healthy Cabarrus. In these roles she oversees several community-based programs that align with the county’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment and include diabetes prevention and intervention; efforts to combat childhood obesity; substance use prevention and harm reduction strategies. Marcella also works with community partners to address identified priority areas and assists with coalition work to ensure progress is made to address local health issues and disparities.

Scott Boone is an Analyst at Cambridge Systematics, a transportation consultancy firm, where he specializes in using data to tell stories about how people use public transit and shared mobility to move around their cities and towns. A North Carolina native, Scott graduated from NC State University with a degree in Mathematics and UNC-Chapel Hill with graduate degrees in Environmental Engineering and Urban Planning. He currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Lanier M. Cansler brings a unique consulting and strategy perspective having previously served as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, appointed to the position of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and having practiced as a Certified Public Accountant. He established Cansler Collaborative Resources, Inc. in 2012 with a commitment to bringing together highly-qualified and experienced individuals with expertise in the health and human services and state and local government arena that could provide significant value to clients in a rapidly-changing political, regulatory and business environment.

Bobby Compton is Chair of the CCOG Board of Delegates and has been a Mooresville Commissioner since 2011. Bobby retired from Mooresville Fire-Rescue in 2005 and since then, has focused on local government work in his hometown of Mooresville. Bobby is a member of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, the National League of Cities, the North Carolina State Firefighter’s Association and is a lifetime member of the Western North Carolina Fire and Life Safety Educators Association. He also serves as a liaison to the Mooresville Historic Preservation Commission and the Mooresville Downtown Commission.

Mark Cramer is an attorney with a wide-ranging legal, consulting and management career. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Greater Gaston Development Corporation that brings the public, private, academic and non-profit sectors together to implement strategic economic growth initiatives for Gaston County. Mark is also a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, awarded to persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

Kristy Ratchford Crisp is currently the Director of Economic Development for the City of Gastonia. Kristy is a native of Gastonia and loves using her diverse experience in municipal government to serve her community. She completed her undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and her master’s degree at Western Kentucky University. She is also a graduate of the University of Virginia Leading, Educating and Developing Program and UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government Basic Economic Development course.

Dena Diorio is the Mecklenburg County Manager. She is responsible for executing the policy decisions of the Board of County Commissioners and overseeing the administration of County departments. She also advises the Board on operational and financial matters and submits an annual operating and capital budget for the Board’s consideration. Prior to being appointed as County Manager in 2014, Dena joined the County in 2007 as Director of the Department of Financial Services and in 2013 was promoted to Assistant County Manager for fiscal control, policies and standards compliance.

Karyl Fuller, GISP, CZO, RPO, has been the Director of Isothermal Rural Planning Organization, which covers McDowell, Polk and Rutherford counties, since 2012. In her work, she has been involved in a variety of transportation planning efforts including four comprehensive transportation plans, six bicycle/pedestrian plans and a region-wide bicycle plan. A significant recent project has been the planning and implementation of the 13.58-mile Thermal Belt Rail Trail in Rutherford County, which is scheduled to open in Spring 2019.

Geraldine Ide Gardner, AICP, is the Executive Director of Centralina Council of Governments. She previously served as the Director of Urban and Regional Policy program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). Her expertise lies in the integrated policies and cross-sector partnerships needed to build sustainable and inclusive cities. Prior to joining GMF in 2012, Geraldine served in key leadership positions under three mayors of the District of Columbia. She serves as adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Urban Planning Department and is an AICP-certified planner.

Zachary “Zac” D. Gordon, AICP, currently serves as the Planning Director for the City of Kannapolis, a position he has held since November 2014. Zac has devoted his professional career to the task of building and enhancing communities, having led and contributed to successful planning initiatives in multiple local government settings and in the private and non-profit sectors. The main points of focus of his work have been community and economic development, land use, transportation, capital and project planning, with emphasis on leadership, management and consensus building.

Robert “Wike” Graham, MPS, CFO, is a Battalion Chief for the Charlotte Fire Department and Deputy Director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management program, where he provides leadership in the areas of emergency services, particularly in the areas of prevention, mitigation, planning, response, and recovery from manmade and natural disasters. Wike is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program, has an AS in Emergency Preparedness Technology (Emergency Management), a BS in Fire Science Administration, a Graduate Certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management, and a Master of Professional Studies, Security and Safety Leadership from George Washington University.

John Grey has over 30 years of experience in the design and construction administration phases of water distribution and wastewater collection projects. He provides oversight and management on a variety of disciplines for the Winston-Salem Regional Office of The Wooten Company, ranging from project funding strategy, to design, bidding and all the way through construction contract administration and observation services. John is also active in his community having served as Past Chair of the Randolph County Economic Development Corporation and Past President of the Asheboro Rotary Club.

Barry Gullet, PE, has more than 40 years of experience in the water and wastewater profession. He worked in several positions with Charlotte Water from 1978 until he retired as Director in January 2018. After retiring from Charlotte Water, Barry formed Catawba Consulting, PLLC to provide water resources planning and utility management services. Barry was the recipient of numerous awards and honors during his career including the George Warren Fuller Award, Arthur Sidney Bedell Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Jessica Hill, AICP, PMP, is the Assistant Planning Director for CCOG. She provides planning services to the nine counties and jurisdictions within the areas of land use and transportation planning, facilitation and public engagement, and sustainability. Her work focuses on helping local governments solve community challenges through the analysis and assessment of data and engagement of residents and partners. Jessica holds a MBA from Wake Forest University and a Master of City and Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill.

David Hollars is the Director of CCOG’s Centralina Workforce Development Board that serves Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Lincoln, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties. In this role, he provides expertise and resources to support the work of the Board with its economic development, education and business partners, creating innovative strategies to serve job seekers and employers. David has nearly 40 years of experience in workforce development and has received many honors including the George B. Autry Leadership Award and the Jack Callaghan Cornerstone Award for achievement in workforce development

Monica Holmes, AICP CNU-A, is a Planning Coordinator for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department where she is building an urban design program. With a background in urban design and planning, she is committed to building livable communities and works to design spaces and places that inspire people to have fun, get engaged and love their community. She is experienced in placemaking, neighborhood design, graphic design and project management. She also has extensive charrette design experience and works with stakeholders to reach sustainable, implementable solutions.

Peter Kageyama is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and the follow up, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. He is the former President of Creative Tampa Bay and the co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit. Peter is a Senior Fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a national network of city leaders, and a special advisor to America In Bloom. Peter is an internationally sought-after community development consultant and grassroots engagement strategist who speaks about bottom-up community development and the amazing people who are making change happen

Anthony “Tony” Lathrop joined the NC Board of Transportation in March 2017 as an At Large Member where he chairs the Finance Committee and serves on the Multimodal Committee. He was a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission from 2011-2017 and served as its chair from 2014-2017. He currently chairs the Charlotte Unified Development Ordinance Advisory Committee. Tony is a partner with the law firm of Moore & Van Allen PLLC where he specializes in commercial litigation, zoning, land use and dispute resolution. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill

Jason Lawrence joined the Charlotte Area Transit System in 2000 and for the past 19 years, has served in the role of Transportation Planner. He has also performed bus service planning and demographic analysis, implemented the Sprinter Airport Enhanced Bus service and was a member of the LYNX Blue Line Extension Light Rail Team. Currently, Jason is leading a study to update the 2030 Transit System Plan, which will result in new rapid transit recommendations for the North and West corridors.

Matthew “Matt” Leber is a Senior Strategic Investment Officer for LISC. In this role he provides strategic guidance, technical assistance and development expertise to LISC’s local office network, affordable housing developers, government entities and community-based organizations across the country. Prior to joining the National Housing Team, Matt worked for the New York City and Buffalo local LISC programs, with a strategic focus on LISC NYC’s New Market Tax Credit program, lending, statewide affordable housing preservation programs and homeownership/foreclosure issues

Tim Lowry is a professional storyteller. His love for show business began when he was six years old, watching a thrilling performance at the circus. Waiting for his big break, Tim filled his childhood with performance opportunities, including theater and puppetry. As a theater major in college, he took an elective class in storytelling and found himself. In 2012, Tim began touring the National Storytelling Festival circuit and has shared stories on stages from Connecticut to California. His performance history includes clients in government, private business, public schools and higher education

Michael “Mike” Manis, CEcD, is Director of Community and Economic Development for CCOG. In this role, Mike facilitates access and support of multiple federal agencies, funding opportunities and grants. Mike also serves as President for the Centralina Economic Development Commission, a public-private 501c(3) nonprofit designated as the federal Economic Development District. A certified economic developer (CEcD), Mike provides more than 40 years of experience in management and coordination on federal, state and local levels in a variety of municipal and private development arenas.

Ken McCoy, SHRM-SCP, oversees operations of eight NCWorks Career Centers in the seven counties making up the Centralina Workforce Development Board Region. In this role, Ken designs and implements creative operational solutions, encompassing multiple locations, that support and develop a diverse workforce. He has his Senior Certified Professional designation with the Society for Human Resource Professionals and previously worked as an executive in the telecommunication and information technology industries recruiting for high demand positions.

Linda Miller is the Director of the Centralina Area Agency on Aging at CCOG. She works to ensure that older adults in our region age with choice, dignity and independence. Linda has been with CCOG for over 20 years, having worked as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Community Services Coordinator before becoming Director in 2012. Linda is the current President of the Southeastern Association of Area Agencies on Aging. She also serves as a lead trainer and presenter on aging-related topics at local, statewide and national conferences.

Michelle E. Nance, AICP, is the Planning Director for CCOG. Her work is focused on helping local governments address shared, long-term issues through collaboration and partnerships. She is the former Director of Planning and Development Services for the City of Gastonia and has experience in state, regional and local government planning. In 2017, Michelle was honored as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in the Charlotte region and was named 2017 Woman of the Year by Mecklenburg Times

Emily Parker is a Senior Planner at CCOG. In this role, she designs, organizes and implements public engagement opportunities in communities of all sizes across the nine-county greater Charlotte region. Emily excels at multi-jurisdictional coordination and convening, professional engagement process design and implementation, building relationships with local government staff, elected officials and other private sector and non-profit stakeholders, group and program management, meeting facilitation, thoughtful client service and support, and attention to detail for a quality process and product.

Jim Prosser has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors including over 25 years in city management.  Jim served as Executive Director of CCOG from 2010-2018 and prior to that, served as the first City Manager of Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he led recovery and reinvestment efforts after a massive flood severely damaged properties in and around the City’s historic downtown. Jim is a credentialed member of International City/County Managers Association, a member of Lambda Alpha International and the Urban Land Institute, and was previously a Certified Independent Public Finance Advisor.

Hillary Sherman serves as the Economic Development Administration (EDA) North Carolina representative for the U.S. EDA. Hillary is responsible for EDA grant program outreach, strategic partnership development, project development and grant management to advance the EDA mission. Prior to this role, she served as a lead of the Performance and National Programs Office with EDA in Washington, DC, worked on college campuses and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Hillary attended Elon University and earned her LL.M. in International Law from National University of Ireland, Galway

Stephanie Smith serves as the Director of Information Technologies Security and Engineering Services for Mecklenburg County. She is responsible for leading county-wide information security efforts focused on securing data and protecting system operations from malicious intrusion and unauthorized use while providing technical engineering services that ensure reliable and scalable infrastructure. With over 15 years of progressive leadership responsibilities in IT and Security, Smith utilizes her extensive business, technical and policy expertise to strengthen Mecklenburg County’s IT Security preparedness. Smith earned a BS in Information Technologies from East Carolina University and has Government Chief Information Officer certification from UNC-Chapel Hill

Ronald “Ron” Tober is an experienced senior advisor who has spent over four decades working in the public transit industry, including serving in senior executive management positions at transit systems in Seattle, Cleveland, Charlotte, Miami and Boston. This experience includes being the CEO of four transit agencies (Seattle Metro, GCRTA, CATS and PVTA) and the chief operations planning officer for MBTA and Miami Dade Transit. His areas of expertise include performance management, financial planning and financing and capital project development and management.

Jason Wager, AICP, CEP, is Principal Planner at CCOG. Jason’s work includes projects that employ land use planning principles and public engagement processes where he is regularly involved in transportation, energy and environment-related activities that include collaboration among solid waste/recycling programs, water resource planning experts and renewable energy/energy efficiency initiatives for local governments. He also serves as Coordinator for the Centralina Clean Fuels Coalition, a USDOE voluntary government-industry partnership that promotes transportation choices including the use of alternative fuels, mode diversity and clean vehicle technologies.

Bobby Williams is the Project Manager for Centralina Council of Governments. In this role, he manages a variety of projects throughout the region, ranging from downtown redevelopment projects to HR assistance, including promotional assessment centers, recruitment and hiring. Bobby is also an active member of CCOG’s government affairs team, working on grants, public engagement, legislative matters and research projects. Bobby has a master’s degree in public affairs from the UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor of Arts in political science and broadcast communication from Winthrop University.


Contact Kelly Weston at kweston@centralina.org or ccogconference@centralina.org. Interested in sponsoring? Review our sponsor and exhibitor opportunities, or contact Bobby Williams at bwilliams@centralina.org.

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