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City of Rocky Mount commemorates Black History Month

The city of Rocky Mount will commemorate Black History Month in February with a spoken word event, special programming on CITY TV Channel 19 and stories about prominent Black residents who are part of our community’s rich history.

  • Risen Voices – An evening of spoken word and slam poetry celebrating and honoring Black history in the Rocky Mount community will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 in the Booker T. Theater. The event is free to the public.
  • Special programming on CITY TV Channel 19:
      • Livestream of African American History – “The Untold Stories” featuring former state Sen. Angela Bryant, who is currently assistant secretary for equity and inclusion at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Watch at 11 a.m. Feb. 28.
      • Risen Voices event.
      • 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Celebration.
      • 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical Competition.
      • “I Have a Dream” event at Booker T. Washington Community Center gym from November.
      • George Henry White – American Phoenix.
  • Remembering History
    Weekly stories on the city’s website highlighting prominent Black residents who are part of Rocky Mount’s rich history.

Remembering History: Educator Anna Easter Brown

This is the first in a series of Black History Month stories on prominent Black residents who are part of Rocky Mount’s rich history.

Anna Easter Brown was born on Easter Sunday, 1879, in West Orange, New Jersey, to George Beverly Brown, a coachman from Virginia, and Lawrie (Laura) Sophia Costeley, of Maryland. She was the sister of Ella Antoinette, Mary Studley, and Beverly Preston Brown.

In 1897, Anna graduated with honors from West Orange High School, and pursued her higher education at the Teacher’s College Department at Howard University, and Columbia University. In 1908, she was one of nine principal founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA), the first Greek-letter sorority for African American women. Anna served as the organization’s first Treasurer and graduated with four other founders in 1909.

Anna Easter Brown’s first teaching appointment was to the Brick School, in Enfield, North Carolina. During this period, she traveled extensively throughout the United States and developed her life-long interest in African American history. She documented her experiences in articles featured in Opportunity, the magazine of the National Urban League.

In 1926, Anna began her career in education in Rocky Mount at the Lincoln High School, followed by an appointment to Booker T. Washington High School. Although she taught various subjects, including Latin and Social Sciences, she took the greatest interest in teaching African American history to her students, and developed numerous exhibits featuring key aspects of Black history on an annual basis. In addition to her educational initiatives, Brown was a charter member of the YWCA in Rocky Mount, the Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha (1925), a resolute member of the Episcopal Church, the American Teachers’ Association, and other civic affairs.

Over the years, Anna Easter Brown served as an advisor and inspiration to countless students, fostering within them their own appreciation and love of history. Later in life, Ms. Brown wrote, “I am not a career woman, but what greater career could one wish there to be as inspiration to her pupils? I have accomplished no great thing but I am steadily working toward a high moral standard and refined womanhood.”

Anna Easter Brown died on March 6, 1957, and rests in Unity Cemetery. In 2008, Alpha Kappa Alpha dedicated a bench at her gravesite, and three years later, a historical marker was erected in her honor at the entrance to Unity Cemetery. In 2016, a historical marker for Anna Easter Brown was unveiled in her native West Orange, New Jersey. In 2017, Ms. Brown was inducted into the Twin County Museum and Hall of Fame.

To learn more about Unity Cemetery, please visit: https://unitycemeterync.com/

Prehistoric Adventures Coming to Children’s Museum at Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences in Rocky Mount

The Children’s Museum at the Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences will host “Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice.” The interactive exhibit runs from Feb. 4 to May 14.

Get ready to travel back in time and see what it was like when these giant animals walked the Earth during the Cretaceous Period 65-145 million years ago. Children will be able to climb, touch and explore the prehistoric world in the land of dinosaurs.

Attendees will have a chance to be a paleontologist and dig for fossils at the Field Research Station. The “Land of Fire” features a Triceratops, a T-Rex and more. The “Land of Ice” has a Troodon and an Edmontosaurus, which lived in cold climate of Alaska.

“Dinosaurs: The Land of Fire and Ice” was created by the Minnesota Children’s Museum. It is a great opportunity for families to learn and have fun together as well as for students, scout troops, youth groups and more.

Admission is $6 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the Imperial Centre or online at imperialcentre.org. On Sundays admission is free to City of Rocky Mount residents. For more information, call 252-972-1266.

New spring art exhibits open at Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences in Rocky Mount

The Maria V. Howard Arts Center at The Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences in Rocky Mount is presenting two new spring art exhibits. Our featured exhibits are “Naturally” by artists Brenda Brokke and Leatha Koefler and our annual juried art show, “Handcrafted,” featuring artists from our region and throughout the United States.

Brenda Brokke and Leatha Koefler’s exhibit features mixed-media installations consisting of a mix of nests and elements of time. As you step into the gallery, you are drawn to elements of nature as well as familiar elements of home.

The “Handcrafted” exhibit includes a variety of handcrafted artworks featuring tapestries, sculpture, pottery, mixed media and more. This is always a favorite to patrons as the exhibit boasts more than 50 works of art from over 45 artists. Artist Susan Fecho is our juror this year and is challenged with the task of selecting winners in the exhibit. Winners will be announced at an artist reception from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, January 29. The winners also will be posted on the Imperial Centre website and social media. The exhibit will run from January 20-April 23.

Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. The Imperial Centre is located at 270 Gay Street in Rocky Mount.

For more information, please contact Joyce Turner by calling 252-972-1175 or via email at emily.turner@rockymountnc.gov.

Rocky Mount Police Department to host Community Gang Awareness 101

The Rocky Mount Police Department will host Community Gang Awareness 101 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, in the Booker T. Theater at 170 E. Thomas St. in downtown Rocky Mount.

This free community event that is open to the public will focus on:

  • Detailing ways that the Rocky Mount Police Department is responding to gang problems.
  • Helping parents speak to their children about gangs.
  • Learning how to identify and report suspected gang activity.

Community organizations will be available to discuss resources that are available. Light refreshments also will be served.

For more information, contact the Police Department Community Engagement Coordinator Yolanda Thigpen via email at yolanda.thigpen@rockymountnc.gov or by calling 252-972-1448.

Battle Park boat ramp to temporarily reopen for spring fishing season

In recognition of the historic and cultural importance of shad and rock fish (striped bass) fishing in the Tar River, the city’s Battle Park boat ramp will temporarily reopen on Feb. 1 for the spring 2023 season.

The boat ramp will remain open until May 1 or when the spring migration of shad and rock fish is completed, whichever occurs first. The Rocky Mount Mills dam is the barrier that ends the migration of these species. The Battle Park boat ramp is the last upstream ramp on the free-flowing Tar River. The next ramp is 16 miles downstream at Dunbar in Edgecombe County.

The Battle Park boat ramp reopening comes as the renovation of Battle Park continues and construction is set to start on a roundabout near the park entrance. Since the boat ramp parking lot and south shoulder of Battle Park Lane are being used as a construction staging area, boaters will be required to park their vehicles and trailers on the north side of the road (closest to US 64). Boat launch traffic must yield to construction activity in the area.

The gate on Battle Park Lane will remain unlocked and open during the spring 2023 fishing season but entering Battle Park Lane without a trailered boat will be considered trespassing.

Bank fishing will continue and has been made more accessible through the removal of invasive species such as privet and wisteria. Bank anglers can park at the Falls Road lot on the west end of Battle Park or at the city’s former Animal Services office at 1101 N. Church St. on the east end of the park. All of Battle Park remains accessible from the Rocky Mount Greenway.

Bank anglers may not use Battle Park Lane for vehicle access or parking. No bank fishing will be allowed from the boat ramp.

Contact the city’s Park and Recreation Department for questions or concerns by calling 252-972-1151, or go online and visit https://rockymountnc.gov/battle-park-spring-2023/

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce Announces Recipient of the Distinguished Citizen of The Year

The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce (RMACC) announced the winner of the Distinguished Citizen of the Year for 2022 will be Mayor Sandy Roberson.

“We were so pleased to have received numerous nominations from our membership for this award and it is with great pleasure that we announce Mayor Sandy Roberson as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year award.”  Stated RMACC President and CEO, David Farris. “He is exemplary in his service to the Rocky Mount Area and the committee to elect the winner this year was unanimous in its decision.”

Each year The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes a citizen who has demonstrated noteworthy commitment and contribution to the greater Rocky Mount, NC community. He or she will have shown consistent dedication to the enhancement of the area’s quality of life, promoted and advanced the welfare of all residents, and advanced the well-being of the community while exhibiting unselfish skills and influence of leadership.

This prestigious and honored award is bestowed upon one who best exemplifies the name of the award and Mayor Sandy Roberson fit that bill easily.

“No one is more deserving of the 2022 Distinguished Citizen Award than Mayor Sandy Roberson,” said Kevin Jones, a community and Transition Team Leader. “Sandy has not once allowed competition to stand in the way of strategic relationships that can move our city forward.”

Roberson has led initiatives in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill to reduce crime, as well as support small businesses during the pandemic, and with the Obama Foundation to establish a mentoring and tutoring program for young African American males to increase graduation rates. He is active in pursuing economic development projects to bring jobs and opportunity to this region, with a focus on increasing the low household media income in Rocky Mount. He partnered with ADT Blue to provide free doorbell cameras to place in high-crime neighborhoods as a test, so as to assist RMPD with video of criminal misdeeds.

“Sandy is pushing for every Rocky Mount neighbor to have self-worth, to live in a clean and safe neighborhood, to have a job, and to receive a good education,” said Thomas A. Betts, who was one of many who nominated Roberson for this prestigious award.

“His heart for the city and the individuals who make up the city is pure gold,” added Mayor Pro Tem T.J. Walker in his nomination of Roberson. “Sandy aims to raise the quality of life of all residents by ensuring that the quality of jobs, education and resources are also raised to a higher standard.”

Currently, Roberson is president of HealthView Capital Partners, a private equity group that invests in healthcare companies. He invests not only in the downtown area, but supports many local charities including the United Way, the Boys and Girls Club, Peacemakers, and My Sister’s House. Each year, he donates his mayoral salary to a local nonprofit.

Roberson is working with the city to develop and track the city department’s Key Performance Indicators to improve performance with help from the UNC School of Government Performance Measurement project.

“He often leads negotiations behind the scenes and does not require recognition,” said Ricky Parks in his submission. “He’s in a no-win position, often absorbing criticism for circumstances he has no control over yet is everyone’s biggest cheerleader.”

Roberson initiated the legislation that became the Enhance Local Government Transparency law establishing ethic requirements for locally elected officials.

Recently, Roberson requested NCDOT to conduct a feasibility study to bring microtransit, similar to Uber or Lyft, to Rocky Mount, as transportation is repeatedly mentioned as an issue to retaining a job. Roberson is a member of the city’s Metropolitan Planning Organization that works to meet the long-range transportation needs of the area.

Roberson spotlights local issues and individuals on his weekly TV show, The Mayor’s Brief. In addition, there are few community efforts, individual achievements, or 80+ birthdays he fails to recognize and celebrate. Earlier this year, he reinstated the Rocky Mount Prayer Breakfast on the National Day of Prayer.

“Mayor Roberson is plugged in to all major issues that the city faces,” said Trey Lewis in his nomination. “He isn’t content sitting on the sidelines – he rolls his sleeves up and gets involved.” Other nominators included Barden Winstead, Buckley Strandberg, and Bill Farmer.

Roberson has served on many boards and has been honored as the 2022 Elks Lodge Flag Recipient, the 2021 Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Northern District of the East Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America and was a Finalist in the NEER Entrepreneur Awards.  Roberson is married to the former Jennifer Stone and has four adult children. He graduated from Rocky Mount Senior High, Hampden-Sydney College and is a member of First Baptist Church.

The Distinguished Citizen Award is presented at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting to be held on February 2, 2023, at Nash Community College’s Brown Auditorium. Starting at 5:30pm with the President’s reception, the annual meeting will begin at 6:00pm.

The Chamber will recognize others for the President’s Award, and the Ambassador of the Year Award. Individual Chamber committee reports will be revealed that night as well.

“Our keynote speaker this year will touch on a very hot topic this year; Workforce Development.” Continued Farris. “You won’t want to miss what Dr.Todd Roberts, Chancellor of the NC School of Science and Mathematics, has to tell us.”

The annual meeting is required as the Chamber is a non-profit organization, and the Board of Directors conduct the meeting as indicated in the by-laws. Any questions about our annual meeting or any other Chamber event can be directed to Melissa Dooley, Event Coordinator at 252-973-1202.

Rocky Mount receives $800,000 grant for downtown improvements

The city of Rocky Mount is receiving an $800,000 Rural Transformation grant for downtown improvements that will improve pedestrian mobility, attract more businesses, encourage foot traffic and patronage to current businesses, and promote safety to tourists, citizens and seniors.

“We are elated and grateful to learn that the city is receiving an $800,000 Rural Transformation grant for downtown improvements. This grant will help us build even more momentum for the revitalization of downtown Rocky Mount into a thriving center of commercial, retail and residential activity,” said Rocky Mount Interim City Manager Peter Varney. “The city intends to use the grant money for sidewalk and streetscape improvements on Tarboro, Washington and NE Main streets. This work will support the private-sector investments from the owners of downtown eateries, entertainment venues and stores.”

City Council appoints Keith C. Rogers Jr. as city manager

Rocky Mount City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to appoint Keith C. Rogers Jr. as city manager.

Rogers is currently the town manager of Dumfries, Virginia. He has been responsible for the leadership and management of daily operations of the town’s government since 2019. Dumfries has 30+ employees who serve the town’s nearly 6,000 residents.

Among his many accomplishments in Dumfries, Rogers successfully led Town Council and staff through a municipal bond refunding process, resulting in a savings of more than $640,000.

Rogers previously spent a decade working for the city of Richmond, Virginia, holding various executive roles that included chief of staff and chief administrative officer.

“I am excited to join the Rocky Mount community,” Rogers said. “I thank the Mayor and City Council and I look forward to working with City staff to ensure that we serve this community with excellence.”

Rogers’ start date as Rocky Mount’s city manager has yet to be determined. His annual salary will be $225,000.

He will replace Peter Varney, who has served as interim city manager since former Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle D. Small-Toney announced her retirement in January.

The City Council hired POLIHIRE in April to conduct a national search for a new city manager. POLIHIRE is a Washington, D.C., firm with more than 15 years of executive search and leadership development experience.

Council members conducted virtual interviews with five candidates. They interviewed Rogers in person last month.

“Keith Rogers brings a depth of experience to this role,” said Mayor Sandy Roberson. “After an exhaustive national search by POLIHIRE and an extensive vetting locally, I am confident he will excel in this role.”

Rogers has a Master’s degree in public administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a member of the International City Managers Association and the Virginia Local Government Management Association. He is a past adjunct professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU.

Golden LEAF awards $1.5 million to city of Rocky Mount for expansion of water and sewer service

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors awarded $1.5 million on Thursday, Dec. 1, to the city of Rocky Mount to expand water and sewer capacity along Thomas Betts Parkway and Peele Road to serve 55.5 acres of prime industrial property that city officials are hoping will attract a new or expanding industry.

The funding was part of $5,775,802 that the Golden LEAF Board allocated for seven projects through its SITE Program – Development program.

“Golden LEAF recognizes that rural communities must have sites available to attract new businesses and create opportunities for existing businesses to expand,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer. “The Golden LEAF Board of Directors established the SITE program to assist communities in this work. This project will help the city of Rocky Mount prepare the Peele Road site for industrial expansion.”

City warns customers to be cautious of scammers

Although utility scammers work year-round, they tend to be more active in the peak winter and summer months when people rely on heat and air conditioning. With the onset of the winter heating season, the city of Rocky Mount is urging customers to be cautious of scammers. Utility scammers may falsely identify themselves as city employees and threaten to disconnect services unless the customer makes a payment over the phone. Scammers may also falsely claim to help customers save money on their energy bills as an attempt to gain personal information.

The city of Rocky Mount Business and Collections Services department uses an automated calling system to remind customers of payments that are past due. However, this automated call will not provide the payment amount and due date. City of Rocky Mount employees will never demand immediate payment over the phone or ask a customer to meet them for payment. The automated calling system number is 1-866-288-7608.

The city will not instruct customers to wire funds. The only retail outlet authorized to accept city of Rocky Mount utility payments is Walmart. All other utility payments should be made directly to the city of Rocky Mount.

City of Rocky Mount employees will instruct the customer to call Customer Service at 252-972-1250 for possible assistance, or the toll-free number at 1-866-288-7608 if the customer wishes to make a payment over the phone using the automated system. Payments taken by phone with a customer service representative are at the customer’s request only when they call 252-972-1250.

City of Rocky Mount customers who suspect they have received a call from a scammer are urged to hang up immediately and call a Customer Service representative at 252-972-1250 to verify whether the city is attempting to contact them. Customers are also urged not to share any personal information with the scammers or return any phone calls.

If customers wish to pay their utility bills electronically, they may use the city’s online services at https://ipn.paymentus.com/rotp/crm to make the payment.

Special Notices

Check out articles on a variety of important topics.

Citizen Resource Center

This Citizen Resource Center contains information from local, state, and federal agencies and organizations providing important information and exceptional services for citizens of Rocky Mount. The Citizen Resource Center is for information purposes only, and we encourage you to contact organizations or businesses directly for additional information.

City Manager's Award

The City of Rocky Mount considers its employees to be one of its most valuable assets. The City Manager’s Awards Program is a recognition program that acknowledges employees who go above and beyond the job description requirements and excels at exemplifying the City’s core values: Customer-Centered Service, Professionalism, Respect, Teamwork & Leadership, and Supportive Work Environment.

Streetscape and Depot Park Survey

The city of Rocky Mount and the Kimley-Horn design are gathering feedback for the conceptual design of the Falls Road Streetscape Project. This project is an effort to transform Falls Road between West Thomas St. and Church St. It includes providing a safer, more vibrant corridor through the addition of sidewalks, streetscape, and a new park.

Click Here to take part in a survey.

City Events

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Rocky Mount Job Opportunities

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Rocky Mount Fire Department

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Rocky Mount Police Department

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