Revitalizing Ronceverte

By Peggy Mackenzie

Enthusiasm for revitalizing Ronceverte’s downtown facades, streetscapes, and environs was a topic at the Monday evening city council meeting in a presentation during the citizens’ comment period made by Tanya Hazelwood and Heather Masters, together with Masters’ step-daughter, Brittney.

According to meeting protocol, the comment period allows residents to voice any concerns they have without any answering remarks from the city council. Mayor David Smith redirected them to attend the Ronceverte Development Corporation (RDC) meetings, where their creative energies and ideas could more appropriately bear fruit. The mayor said Hazelwood and Masters could also meet with him outside the council setting for a more detailed exchange of information.

Due to COVID-19, the July RDC meeting was unfortunately canceled. The August meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 17 at City Hall, he said, to allow sufficient room for visitors to attend.

In a telephone interview, after their calls to the RDC had gone unanswered, Masters said, “The process toward offering our help [so far has] proved to be frustrating. But, I’m not a quitter.”

She said, “My husband and I have three local businesses, and we drive through Ronceverte twice a day, sometimes more often.” She admitted it appeared to her that the town needed improvements, and as a new resident in the area, she was motivated to volunteer. Hazelwood is another local Ronceverte resident who wants to spark up and revitalize the River City. Her mural projects are already a colorful presence along Main Street.

Opting to go it on their own, Masters and Hazelwood organized a town meeting and got 10-15 enthusiastic people to share their ideas and support with. They also opened a Facebook page called “I love Ronceverte,” and quickly acquired 800 member likes. All of which indicate there is plenty of community support for the town.

Paraphrasing Smith, “City improvements take time but they’re happening all the time, albeit, slowly.” Just over the past two months, he said, five downtown buildings have been purchased by outside developers. The former Rexall Drug store building, for one; the brick building that once housed Rudy’s Restaurant, a long-standing, local corner eatery on Main Street; and three more at the other end of town. No doubt the mayor and City Hall are pleased with these developments.

City improvements require time for changes to happen, and community involvement for those slow changes require nurturing, the mayor admitted. Enthusiasm without encouragement can be fleeting, but with the right kind of direction and support, it can be a great source of community-building.

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In other City Council business, the city is still seeking a replacement for former City Manager Reba Mohler, who departed for Clifton Forge a couple of months ago. In the meantime, both Smith and Office Manager Pam Mentz are filling that void serving as “co-interim City Managers.”