Scene In Passing: Insight, commitment reinvents cities |

Scene In Passing: Insight, commitment reinvents cities

John Barrette

Reimagining Greenville isn’t the only South Carolina urban story Carson City might do well to investigate.

The Nevada capital city’s new city manager talks of the book “Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America,” suggesting that city as one model for Carson City’s rejuvenation. Nick Marano, who took over as staff chief executive here June 2, is a former Marine Corps colonel who ran the Camp Pendleton community in southern California before retiring from military service.

Finding pertinent models when it is time to revitalize a city makes sense. South Carolina has another offer, as this past Sunday’s New York Times displayed in a Sunday Review section article by Frank Bruni headlined: “The Most Loved Politician in America?” Nice to know there may be such an animal out there, but whether Charleston’s mayor actually is we’ll leave to the ages.

Suffice to say, however, Mayor Joe Riley is well liked by many in Charleston. He’s nearing the end of four decades holding the office. He first assumed it in Dec., 1975 and re-election has been like clockwork.

Almost immediately after sitting down with Riley, the Times’ article writer was treated to eloquence about Charleston’s annual Spoleto Festival event, a performing arts extravaganza that has bolstered the city’s image for years. It started in Riley’s early years, with the inaugural festival in 1977.

The Charleston mayor said it forced the city to commit to putting on something world class. The festival features 17 days of top quality opera, theater, dance, music and the like. “You need to commit a city to excellence, and the arts expose you to that” Riley was quoted as saying,

The article credited Riley, despite ruffling some feathers along the way, with being careful to avoid picking abstract and unnecessary battles while concentrating instead on visible, measurable realities.

Marano, as Carson City’s new city manager, is accustomed to focusing on visible and measurable realities in the military. He isn’t mayor or an elected official here. Nor is he about to spend four decades in the saddle as city manager.

Still, he can help elected city officials lead the community toward a visibly more pleasing urban space offering residents and visitors a gemstone setting in bejewelled region with Lake Tahoe just minutes to the west. It takes an entire community, however, not just visionary leaders to promote world class things. And it’s tough to best top performers occasionally appearing at nearby casinos. But finding a world class niche isn’t impossible.

It would require real insight today and a quarter century or more of community commitment. Tall order, but another way to help in reinventing Carson City.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at