Burcham gives introduction and city updates

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Franklin Interim City Manager Darlene Burcham introduced herself to the city during the Franklin City Council’s meeting Monday, April 8. She also provided an overview of what she has done a week into her tenure and shared updates on a variety of city projects.

Shortly after the meeting began, Franklin Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins made a point to welcome Burcham, whose first official day on the job was April 1, though she worked with now-former City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt in days prior to that to familiarize herself with the locality.

“We’re pleased to have you,” Cutchins said. “She has over 40 years of experience in counties, towns and cities.”

He offered her the floor to share a few words.

“First of all, I want to say that I’ve been here five days at work, some weekends in addition to that, and I find your city to be delightful,” Burcham said. “I think you have many hidden treasures, and one of the things that we obviously need to do is to market that. The key to economic development in my opinion is getting people to come to your community for the first time, so we have to really work on that, and I’ve already made some ideas and suggestions and changes, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that many of them are already in the works.”

She noted that she is a Virginian.

“I have worked in Virginia’s cities, counties and towns my entire professional career,” she said. “In fact, I call myself a veteran — a seasoned veteran — of local government. I could, in fact, retire, but I’m not built that way. I enjoy working and hopefully making a contribution to each and every community that I work in, and I was delighted to receive the opportunity to come here to the city of Franklin.”

She is no stranger to the region.

“I actually was in the Tidewater area for many years, first with the city of Hampton, then James City County, then the city of Norfolk before I went to the mountains where I have resided since then,” she said. “I was the city manager in Roanoke for 10 years, then (I) went to the small town of Clifton Forge as an interim.”

She said she stayed there for 10 years, though she indicated she is not going to do that in her interim role in Franklin.

“And then I left Clifton Forge and went to the town of Pulaski for three-and-a-half years,” she said.

Concluding her introduction, she said, “My two daughters are both in public service, and I have five grandchildren, and that’s the best part of my life.”

When the time came in the April 8 meeting for the city manager’s report, Burcham indicated that she would use this first report to share what she has been doing in her first five days on the job.

“I have had the opportunity, actually technically before I arrived, to meet with the school superintendent,” she said. “I thought it was important for me to find out what was going on (with) that aspect of the city, and I did have meetings with the commissioner of the revenue and the treasurer. The commissioner of revenue and I had multiple conversations regarding the tardiness of our reassessment and looking at what options we have had.

“I have taken some tours, some by virtue of my getting lost going places, others by guided tours from staff to get to know not only locations in the city but the kind of projects that you all are working on, and there are many, and I’m excited about the fact that I’ll be here for at least part of the development of those projects,” she continued. 

She addressed the topic of the town’s website being under design, alluding to conversations pertaining to its development.

“I have asked to be a participant in those future conversations because of some things that have been said to me by both council members and people in the community about how to make that more user friendly,” she said. “And as I mentioned earlier, I think we do have to really look at that website as a way to market our city and get people to come here for the first time.”

She said city staff expects the next meeting on the website design to take place in about two to three weeks, and she noted that she will make sure the council is informed on the progress of that work.

Burcham then turned her focus to community events.

“I would also tell you that the carnival, which I have not had in a community in a number of years, is scheduled, and you probably have seen some publicity,” she said. “It will be April 18-21 located in front of Walmart, and there’s a lot of advertising that’s going on with it while that is in the works, and I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of people coming into the city for that event in addition to our own residents who want to be a participant.”

She said the city has a number of entertainment items that have already been booked for June, July and August.

“I look forward to seeing those and meeting more of the residents at, hopefully, those events in the future,” she said.

Then she addressed some capital projects.

“We have had the architect submit the facade concepts and floor plan for the community center, and a concept has been chosen, so that project is moving along,” she said. 

“And the Enteros Design folks are waiting for our go-ahead on the (Franklin) courthouse renovation, and it’s one of the reasons why I visited that site today, and I’ll be talking with people so we could get that under contract fairly quickly,” she said. 

“And then from the standpoint of our utility, the wetlands permit is almost complete, and DEQ has issued their permit, so we’re waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers, which should be coming in shortly. I think the end of this week is the projected date for that to be delivered so that we’re moving along with that new substation and its development and design in anticipation of the additional usage that’s going to be in that part of the city.”

She mentioned having learned of vacancies on the city’s various boards and commissions.

“I would just encourage all of us, those watching and those here at the dais, to think about people who want to be engaged in planning the future of this community,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Planning Commission or one of the other boards or commissions, it’s a way to get involved, and we certainly need all of our help. It’s not any one of us that will make this community great, it’s all of us working together.”

She concluded by thanking the council for the opportunity to serve, and she stated a goal to put the city in a good position in terms of management.

“I look forward to the efforts of the group that you all have hired to identify and help you recruit a permanent city manager, and I will do my best to make sure that you get the best candidates for that purpose,” she said.