Q&A: Town Manager Chris Kennedy Talks the Future of Pittsboro

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We asked Chris Kennedy about his favorite part of the job and how he plans to build upon the town’s legacy

Chris Kennedy

By Renee Ambroso | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Chris Kennedy and his wife, Emily Kennedy, moved from Southern Pines to Pittsboro last summer when he began working as town manager. They live with their 4-month-old daughter, Annie, dachshund-German shepherd mix, Mollie, and black lab, Maddux.

What is your background? What was your job before you came to Pittsboro?

Urban planning is my background, so most of my career has been focused on land development. … [After] 3 1⁄2 years [working for the Town of Southern Pines], I was promoted to assistant town manager and community development director. I served in that capacity for about four years before coming here.

What were your first experiences in Pittsboro?

I was a delegate from Southern Pines [on the board of Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization] and served as vice chairman. We would split meetings between Sanford and Pittsboro. I would come up to Pittsboro and go to the old [agriculture] center right here at the traffic circle. … I would power through the meeting and go to S&T’s [Soda Shoppe], and that became my habit. … That was my introduction [to Pittsboro]. The night I got sworn in as manager, my parents came and my wife was here. We went and celebrated at S&T’s. It seemed appropriate.

Chris Kennedy and family

How has your family adjusted to the move?

It’s hard to pick up and leave friends, but you know [town] managers can’t really work remotely. Emily grew to love [Southern Pines] and made good friends there, so we’re looking forward to doing the same thing here. It has been hard with the pandemic because there [are] fewer events to get out and about – and then [having] a small child as well. … I do feel like I’m part of the community, and I try to do what I can – I try to eat lunch every day at a different downtown establishment. I’m on the board of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, the Pittsboro Boys & Girls Club Advisory Council and Main Street Pittsboro that serves our downtown, so beyond my professional capacity, I try to involve myself in the community.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I talk to a lot of people. Town managers serve at the pleasure of the elected board, so that’s my job – I try to implement their wishes. I’m also in charge of running the organization, so my job is to support my staff. So, it varies on a day-to-day basis, but it’s centered on those two things. … I serve to support my staff and anything that I can do to make their job easier or prepare them. … It doesn’t get boring. A lot of my days are spent strategizing, talking to my staff, talking to outside partners or stakeholders or agencies. On Monday, I started my day off with a staff meeting and then a meeting with Sen. Thom Tillis.

As major changes take place in or around Pittsboro, how is the town considering the future?

We’re looking forward to seeing [Chatham Park] come to fruition. … I think it’s a really exciting thing for Pittsboro. It’s certainly a very large project. … I think that it brings some fear and anxiety about it. But as we see the fruits of the labor both on the town’s part and Chatham Park’s part … it will [bring us] all the things that we need. We don’t need to go to Wake County for basic needs and services. We have jobs here, we’ve got a diversity of housing stock and the town’s working on affordable housing (some in Chatham Park), so our goal is to have folks work, play and learn [here]. … It’s a really great opportunity to shape our future…. We’re not going to abandon the legacy of Pittsboro by any means, but I think it allows us to have the amenities that we seek closer to home while also being able to enhance them. We see the investments in downtown now – because people see the momentum, they see the population growth.

What hurdles does the town face now and in the future?

Utilities is probably No. 1. All these dreams and desires and plans cannot come to fruition if we don’t figure out utilities. We are out of sewer capacity – we’re working on projects to add to that, but even those will be whittled down quickly. We’ve got projects that we’re working with the City of Sanford on, particularly a sewer line project that sends sewer down to them. Water quality has been a well-publicized and discussed concern. There’s probably nothing more important than that. We’re working on several projects right now trying to increase the amount of water we have – besides the quality of it, we need more of it.

What are you excited to see happen?

The exciting thing is to look at the recreation side of things. That’s one of the really exciting sectors of our existence as a town operation. [In terms of] parks, we’ve got some good land – we can certainly do a better job of maintaining those and need to make some investments in those areas. There’s a lot of real tangible things in between … recreational opportunities [such as] a sports complex, opportunities for expanding greenway trails and more sidewalks.

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