by Brian Clarey, Eric Ginsburg and Jordan Green
We can measure a year in months and minutes, or mark the seasons as they go by.
But to really comprehend the last 365 days in the Triad, we need to look at what happened.
It’s part of our mission to help people understand their time and place, so every year we chronicle the people, places, moments, topics and things that have shaped our lives.
Within these 100 points of light, a picture forms, a portrait of our cities as they are, warts and all.
2015 saw heroes and villains, intrigue and ineptitude, beauty and destruction. And all of it conspired to bring us from the place we were… to the place we are.
1. Rhiannon Giddens
Besides her turn at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, native daughter Rhiannon Giddens had a huge year, releasing her solo debut album, Tomorrow is My Turn, in February, pulling off an impeccable performance on one of the last episodes of “Late Night with David Letterman” and landing on the cover of TCB in April.
2. Travis Page
The death of 31-year-old Travis Page in police custody after being pepper-sprayed prompted immediate calls for transparency and accountability by community leaders in Winston-Salem this December. District Attorney Jim O’Neill has said the release of the video of Page’s death is prohibited by prosecutorial rules enjoining lawyers from making “extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused” and because the video is considered evidence in an ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, mindful of upheaval across the country in response to young, black men dying at the hands of the police, city leaders have called for the release of the video as quickly as possible.
3. Al Heggins
While Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan coordinated with the Rev. Nelson Johnson to ease racial tensions, the city of High Point took the opposite tack, sidelining and eventually firing Human Relations Director Al Heggins when she organized community forums to allow citizens to talk about police-community relations. Heggins has filed a complaint against the city with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This saga is definitely not over.
4. Trudy Wade
We thought we were done with Trudy Wade when she left her Greensboro City Council District 5 seat to take a spot in the state Senate. But among the legislation she sponsored this year was a move to redistrict Greensboro into eight districts, up from five, eliminating at-large positions and revoking the mayor’s vote. SB 36 eventually passed after being rolled into a House bill, prompting a lawsuit by the city and a judge’s injunction, stalling the deal until the legal air clears. Rumors of new candidates waiting in the wings seemed, come election time, spurious.
5. Mark Walker and Alma Adams
For the first time in more than two decades, Greensboro and High Point have not just one but two new representatives in the US House. Republican Mark Walker was elected to replace Howard Coble, who died in 2015 after retiring from Congress. And Democrat Alma Adams won election to the seat vacated by Mel Watt, who accepted an appointment by President Obama to head the Federal Housing Finance Authority. Walker has focused on human trafficking, among other issues, in his first term in office, while Adams has tackled food insecurity and veterans’ issues.
6. Larry Woods
Larry Woods, the independent-minded CEO of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, has ingratiated himself to Republican members of Congress by warning that many residents have become dependent on public housing. But Democratic Mayor Allen Joines has also forged an alliance with Woods, grafting the agency head’s initiative onto his anti-poverty agenda. With grand opening of the new Camden Station community this year, the housing authority expanded its stock of housing geared towards incentivizing residents to look for work.
7. Andy Zimmerman
Before long, developer and sweatpants fan Andy Zimmerman is going to need a trophy room for all the awards and salutatory newspaper articles written about him. This year, Crafted and Preyer opened in one of his renovated buildings, he took aim at new properties in downtown Greensboro’s South End including the former Lotus Lounge and Flying Anvil, and HQ Greensboro co-working space opened in another one of his properties. Renovation is underway on a nearby corner property he owns, and Greensboro Distilling signed a lease to open next door to Gibb’s Hundred Brewing (both in buildings Zimmerman owns and renovated).
8. Mike Coe
Not everyone knows Mike Coe, but he’s an important player as a property owner and developer in Winston-Salem, with holdings in the Downtown Arts District. In 2015, he stepped up to a more prominent position by jumpstarting the renovation of the Pepper Building, a strategically placed property that will tie Restaurant Row on West Fourth Street to the government district. City council approved $1.6 million in low-interest loans to restore the 1927 building with a ground-floor restaurant and retail, along with rental units, in November. The loan would come from the city’s new workforce housing program, which is designed to incentivize affordable housing.
9. Paul Foley
Paul Foley, a young attorney who moved to Winston-Salem in 2011 to take a job at the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm, rapidly rose through the ranks of the GOP thanks to his campaign work on behalf of Pat McCrory during the 2012 gubernatorial campaign, for which he was awarded a seat on the state Board of Elections. Revelations in the News & Observer that Foley intervened in an elections staff investigation into Chase Burns, an Oklahoma sweepstakes executive who donated to the McCrory campaign and also happened to be a client of Foley’s law firm, led to the young lawyer’s abrupt resignation from the board in July.
10. Justin Outling
This is the year that lawyer Justin Outling catapulted from the chair of the city’s minimum housing commission to the history books after first being appointed and then being elected to represent District 3 on Greensboro City Council. It’s not just notable that Outling, a first-time candidate, won by a considerable margin, or that he did so as a first-time candidate or as a Democrat in a seat that’s historically been held by Republicans (though races are nonpartisan). It’s also that Outling is the first black member of council elected in a district race where the voters are majority white. Since joining council in the summer, Outling has demonstrated that he’s an independent thinker who doesn’t vote based on faction, party line or ideology, a decision-making approach that his campaign focused heavily on.