“When COVID came, the city managers were on the phone, talking to each other on how we can help each other; as a regional collaborative effort.”; said Mary Bunting, City Manager for the City of Hampton. The Hampton Roads Chamber held the 2021 City Managers Forum on December 2, 2021 in Chesapeake, Virginia. As the President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber Bryan K. Stephens mentioned, The City Managers Forum hits all four pillars. The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to serve this region as an Impactful Advocate, Inspiring Ignitor, Regional Collaborator, and Powerful Economic Partner. This forum allows the community to hear from the City Managers of the Hampton Roads region, who are the CEOs of their respected cities.
John DeGruttola, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Optima Health, presented Presenting Sponsor comments on behalf of Sentara Health Care and Optima Health. “Sentara Health Care and Optima Health continue to work with communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to learning more about our great cities of Hampton Roads and how we can work and collaborate to make Hampton Roads the region of choice.”
James W. Noel III, Senior VP and General Counsel for The Franklin Johnston Group, presented Member Spotlight comments. “What we’re most proud of is that the fact we developed and manage here in Hampton Roads. We’ve developed in every city in Hampton Roads, and right now, we are currently developing in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.”
Reese Jackson presented Speaker Sponsor comments on behalf of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. Jackson spoke on the Neuroscience Program and how it motivated him to work in healthcare. “I’m in healthcare because of one day when I was a teenager, I took my mom to the emergency room, and her life was extended by the hands of Neurosurgeons and prayer."
Hampton Roads Chamber Regional Board Chairman Steve Romine led the panel discussion, followed by questions presented by volunteers in the audience. City Manager of Suffolk Albert S. Moor II emphasized that all city managers work together more than the community knows. “We do more as a region by influencing each other,” Moor mentioned that the area of harbor view has come a long way, and more developments are on the way. Moor brought to attention that the City of Suffolk is now in the process of bringing the downtown area back to life. Talks have been about focusing on downtown with a new central library which is key for downtown, but also for festival event areas.“
Chesapeake City Manager Chris Price mentioned how Chesapeake is filling up with new Hampton Roads residents calling Chesapeake their home. “We are the second-largest city in Virginia, but we want to make sure that the growth does not out-space our service.” Price mentioned that the construction of the Chesapeake High-Rise Bridge has become a priority and is set to be open by May 2022 and fully completed by the end of 2022. “We’re getting around to the High-Rise Bridge. So with the leadership I hear in the region, that has become a high priority project and you can see that construction happening right now. The westbound lanes which actually go from Chesapeake to Virginia Beach; they’ll be open by may of next year and then we’ll transition to the other side. Full completion of that bridge is estimated by December 31st of next year.”
Bunting emphasized that the media does not give enough attention that city managers share a collaborative and communicative effort for her respected city and the Hampton Roads Region. “We operate more together than people realized,” said Bunting. She followed up with a statement on early childhood education. “I have a very strong relationship with our school division. We have to think about investing more in the programs as a society.”
Newport News City Manager Cynthia Rohlf discussed an opportunity for the City of Newport News, “Transportation has been the topic of discussion for the City of Newport News.” Rohlf announced an innovative infrastructure project that the city has taken on to the audience. “We have designed the Multi-Modal station that will eliminate a lot of traveling conflict. We are positioning ourselves for development, but we have to get through this pandemic so we can get back to full travel plans.”
The City of Portsmouth appointed Angel Jones as the City Manager in April 2021. Jones discussed how the Riverside Casino would impact the economic development of Portsmouth. “We’re looking at 1,200 new jobs, which will be career-growing jobs. There will be an extra 1,300 jobs created just from the construction.” Jones and Portsmouth City Mayor Shannon Glover both share a similar visualization for the future of Portsmouth. “It’s a game-changer; as the mayor says and I say as well, Portsmouth will not look the same.” The project will not be complete until the end of 2022 but will create a significant economic impact on the City of Portsmouth and the Hampton Roads Region.