One of the biggest stories from the past year was the changing of the guard in Christiansburg when Steve Biggs was named the town’s town manager. Biggs is settling in after his first six months on the job.
Biggs was chosen after a national search with over 30 applicants. He replaced the retiring Barry Helms, who was only the town’s third town manager in its history.
The Fayetteville, North Carolina native’s first day on the job was July 1, and Tuesday, town council approved his reappointment for the another year.
Mayor Michael Barber said one of the things that attracted council to Biggs was his past experience in dealing with growing problems now faced here.
“He also had deep organization skills that fit us well.”
In the first six months, Barber said Biggs has demonstrated that he wants each department in the town to succeed.
The small town feel is nothing new for Biggs, as he previously worked in one that was very similar to Christiansburg.
Biggs came from Clayton, North Carolina where he served as town manager for almost two decades. He is credited with leading the North Carolina community through a period of unprecedented growth.
Clayton has an annual budget of $45 million with more than 180 employees. He had also previously served four years as town manager in Aberdeen, North Carolina.
Clayton, which is considered a satellite town of Raleigh, has a population of 16,116, and experts say growth is attributed to the town’s close proximity to the Research Triangle area and access to major highways such as I-40, U.S. 70 and North Carolina State Route 42.
The median income for a household in Clayton is $53,101 and median income for a family was $64,856.
In comparison, as of 2010, Christiansburg’s population was 21,104 and the median income for a household was $40,851 and the median income for a family was $47,428.
Biggs admitted earlier this week the recession of 2008 had taken its toll on Clayton and the Christiansburg job attracted him because of its closeness to a major university, Virginia Tech, and its historic assets.
Biggs believes he was fortunate to come to a community that has great staff and elected officials already in place.
“That allowed me to hit the ground running,” he said.
Looking back on Clayton, he is proud of the construction of several parks, a new town hall and fire stations. Yes, he admits both communities have several similarities.
“I was amazed with what is here (in Christiansburg),” he said.
Biggs believes the historic assets of Christiansburg has been under used and hopes to change that.
“Christiansburg also has a great recreation offering that will continue to grow,” he said.
The potential in attracting people, according to Biggs, from travel sports like lacrosse and soccer will continue to grow especially with the completion of a new recreation facility near New River Valley Mall.
“When people come here for those events, we have the potential for new residents and/or investors in our community. “
Biggs pointed to the fact those same visitors will be spending money for food and hotel stay, thus supporting the town’s economy.
Already one of Biggs’ biggest accomplishments was a recent two-day council retreat. He called it intense but a good step for the town that will allow leaders to focus on the future.
“This plan will help us to do things to make businesses want to invest here,” Biggs said.
What was the result of that retreat was a document entitled “Destination 2022” with seven goals: 1) An active destination for culture, recreation and entertainment; 2) The destination for retail, commerce and service; 3) Clean and green, healthy and safe; 4) A town well-informed and actively enraged citizens; 5) Partnering with businesses and residents; 6) A sound financial entity; and 7) Everyone’s hometown.
The mayor said several things that came out of the meeting are extremely needed.
“The question is how quickly we will be able to afford them and when they can be done, but it’s a good-working document for us to start with,” Barber said.
The breakdown on the 2022 plan includes severa
l of the following individual items:
Developing a plan for a mid-town area bounded by Franklin, Mill and the railroad near a proposed Amtrak rail station.
Increased promotion of the Farmer’s Market and the downtown business area.
Hiring a full-time special events coordinator.
Creation of arts, entertainment districts.
Work to attract a civic center, arena or stadium in the town.
Promote the renovation of existing commercial buildings, partnering with the private sector in historic sectors possibly through a revolving loan fund.
Improve the Roanoke Street cross section to create a two-way left turn lane to Depot Street.
Upgrades to the current town recreation center.