Thomas Gregory, chief administrative officer, City of Greenwood
Thomas Gregory is the chief administrative officer for the city of Greenwood and one of his home town’s biggest fans. Gregory earned an undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University in business administration and a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His hobby is Delta photography.
Q — How did you become interested in city planning work?
A — For a year and a half after graduation I worked as a project manager for Gregory and Associates, a planning and community development consulting firm owned by my father in Greenwood. While working for our clients, primarily small towns in the Mississippi Delta, I learned how to successfully write grants and administer state and federal grant programs for public facilities and affordable housing. In 2007, I began graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I received my masters in city and regional planning in 2009.
Q — Tell us about some projects you’ve worked with under Mayor McAdams that have improved the city?
A — We’ve been fortunate to have a some great success stories in a short amount of time, adopting the city’s first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years, completing the Howard-Johnson Streetscape Improvement Project in downtown, and assisting the production crew of “The Help” while they were filming in Greenwood two summers ago. With my grant writing experience I’ve also been able to help the city secure funding for future projects such as the Greenwood Linear Park, the revitalization of Greenwood’s Baptist Town neighborhood, and the Yazoo River Trail.
Q — What has surprised you about Greenwood since moving back in 2009?
A — I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of young people from the Delta who are moving to Greenwood to start their careers and their families. Greenwood has a great quality of life because of the success of our downtown. As a board member of Main Street Greenwood, I am involved in the city’s downtown revitalization efforts and it has really made a difference in the way people perceive the town. From The Alluvian hotel, to renown family-owned restaurants like Delta Bistro, Lusco’s and Giardina’s, to my favorite retail store, Turnrow Books, Greenwood has a lot going for it. We’re also very fortunate to have good corporate citizens like Viking Range to spearhead downtown development and a new generation of leaders who are stepping up to the plate to move Greenwood forward.
Q — Explain in non-planning language what the “first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years” for the city of Greenwood means.
A — Just like corporations have strategic plans, cities have comprehensive plans that guide policy decisions and provide a clear vision for city leaders. Developed with an extensive public input process, a comprehensive plan is a set of recommendations that helps city leaders steer the city in the direction their citizens want them to take. Greenwood had not had such a plan in place since the 1970s, until I wrote a grant (while working for Gregory and Associates) that enabled the city to hire a consultant to develop Greenwood’s comprehensive plan. As city administrators, the mayor and I use the long-term strategies laid out in the plan to help inform the decisions we make so that the progress made in Greenwood is consistent with the wishes of the citizens. (For more on the plan, visit www.cityofgreenwood.org/plan.)
Q — Talk about the revitalization of Baptist Town.
A — Baptist Town is one of several neighborhoods in Greenwood that has seen decline over the years. With assistance from the Foundation for the Mid South, the Carl Small Town Center, Harvard University’s Community Development Project, and others, the city of Greenwood hopes to begin the revitalization process for Baptist Town. Using community development strategies, the city hopes to improve the quality and affordability of housing in Baptist Town, build a community center, and clean up the entrances into the historic neighborhood. We’ve been working with the residents of Baptist Town to prioritize the list of projects planned for the area, and we hope to give them something they can take pride in once again.
Q — What did the Howard-Johnson Streetscape Improvement Project entail?
A — The Howard-Johnson Streetscape Improvement Project was a $1.5 million project that installed brick sidewalks, brick crosswalks, and historic lighting along downtown’s Howard Street and made sidewalk repairs and installed historic lighting along Johnson Street. The grant for the project was funded in 2006, but nothing had been done to begin the project until Mayor McAdams was elected and got the ball rolling. City leaders held the ribbon cutting for the project on October 6, 2011.
Q — What would you like Greenwood’s future to be?
A — Ultimately, I want Greenwood to be the destination of choice for people from the Mississippi Delta and the surrounding region. With our blues heritage and the success of Greenwood’s culinary experience, I have witnessed more and more people choosing Greenwood for everything from a weekend getaway to their retirement destination. I hope that Greenwood will continue down its path to becoming the creative capital of the Delta, attracting talented chefs, artists, writers, and entrepreneurs. In short, I want Greenwood to be a place where people feel they can live happily, make an honest living, raise children with small-town values, and eventually enjoy a peaceful retirement.
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