I suppose I’ve known Downtown Greensboro Inc.’s Executive Director Zack Matheny for 10 years now, going back to his first Greensboro City Council run in 2007. He had done a couple years on the zoning commission, but as a candidate was not quite used to the kind of pushback that has always been a part of Jordan Green’s repertoire, even back then.

Matheny’s been through the wringer and back since then: three more council terms during which we butted heads on more than a couple issues — the downtown curfew springs immediately to mind, but there were others. I know he’s cursed my name, because he has had the temerity to do it — twice, I think, so far — to my face. This is one of the things I like about him.

I like him better with DGI than I did on council, too. He’s more effective, and he seems happier. He’s taken his lumps from downtown business and property owners from every quarter, and a DWI in 2015, early in his tenure at the post that has begun to seem like a revolving door, put even more pressure on him to perform.

I’m not saying that Matheny is responsible for the remarkable amount of action that has taken place in downtown Greensboro in the last year (see this week’s cover story to see just how much). But I am saying that very little happens in his 99-block territory without him knowing about it. And he was an indispensable source for the piece.

His time here in the heart of the city, now literally on the ground floor, has given him an understanding of Greensboro I think may have been missing during his time in council chambers.

He related to me something that Walker Sanders, president of the Greater Greensboro Community Foundation, helped him understand.

“If you really pull back and see what this city was founded on,” he said to me at his DGI office on the corner of South Elm and Lewis streets, “we were educating women before women could vote. We were educating African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement at A&T. And on top of that, we were educating African-American women at their own college!

“Why did we do all that?” he asks. “Because Greensboro can.”

I know he means it, but it sure does sound like he’s running for something.

  • Billy Jones

    As usual Zack gets it wrong. Bennett College wasn’t built in Greensboro. Bennett College was built on the outskirts of Warnersville, the first free African-American community to be established in the area. It would be many years later before Greensboro annexed Warnersville or Bennett College. Greensboro had nothing to do with it.