The Note I Didn’t Get a Chance to Send

Nicki Meyer passed away on June 13th, 2019. In fact, I was on a conference call with her just before what turned out to be the end. As you may have guessed, the TORCH revitalization of Railroad Street was the topic. Sadly, I had just penned a note to her that didn’t make it to post.

Dear Nicki,

I know this won’t find you in good health, but I hope it finds you in good spirit. I wanted to just jot down a few words of thanks. In the short time I’ve been in Hartwell, you’ve been kind to me and I appreciate that. I know it can be frustrating when the “new guy” comes to town, and you are having to catch him up on the work of the day. 🙂 You’re dedication to this community is worthy of celebration. It reminds me of something Teddy Roosevelt said, “far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” You epitomized that mission. Do rest well during this time. I wish for you all the comfort you need. I think it is ok for you to go ahead and relax for a while. I pray you are surrounded with family and friends, and that peace is in your heart.



In my mind, there is no more fitting way to honor Nicki, than to push the project she was so passionate about across the finish line. I think there is widespread agreement that naming the park Nicki Meyer Railroad Street Park (or something to that effect) is appropriate. I leave you with the words that is inside the TORCH flyer. “Imagine transforming an abandoned block in downtown Hartwell into a community-centric park and regional tourist destination. Picture a pristine welcoming promenade; cool, green, and inviting. Imagine the opportunity to buy a wide variety of local crafts and heart healthy foods, amid an architectural plan that includes a historic depot and train museum, a city marketplace, a train-themed restaurant, a walking path, and much much more. Envision listening to concerts or taking in an outdoor art show in the promenade while your children play in the splash fountain and playground. Now imagine all this connected by a combination walking and biking path featuring wellness/fitness stations and the opportunity to enjoy low impact exercise for any age. TORCH is bringing this vision to life. With your help, private citizens, local corporations, City and state governments, civic organizations and community focused foundations, TORCH is embarking on a multi-year venture. Help us light the torch!”

Memorial Day

John Beale was one of the first guys I met when I got to my unit. He quickly took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He made it easy for me to settle in, because he seemed to be well liked by just about everybody, which is impressive in the Army. John loved Peanut M&Ms and in fact, I have a great picture of him just opening some up with a “what’s up” look on his face. Of course as time goes by, soldiers get shifted around. Unit transfers and promotions keep folks just close enough to see each other from time to time, but not daily. And so it was for me and John. I considered him a friend, though we only got to see each other from time to time. That changed when we got to Afghanistan. We arrived to Camp Phoenix weary eyed and tired from the flight, the time change, and lugging all our gear at the new altitude. I tossed my gear on my bunk and looked up. John was there on the bunk next to me; he looked up and I was greeted with the beloved phrase “what’s up doc?” See I was a medic, and I got that phrase a lot. With a smile and a handshake, we helped each other get settled in for a few days before we found out our assignments. One night, as soldiers started getting pulled for missions, John was obviously somber. He said words that brings tears to my eyes even now as I write this. He said doc, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it through this one.” Now all soldiers have this sentiment I think; I know I did. It is just one of those things that goes through your head. I tried to pep him up and slap him on the back with the encouragement we all provide each other. I am sure I used some colorful “army language” in our discussion. Of course he smiled and shrugged it off. We all do. After all the job has to get done, no matter how we feel about it. The day came for me and John to split. We were both going to Kapisa, but he was in a different valley than I was. A few weeks went by and I got the news. It was June 4th, 2009. John’s truck had been hit by an IED. I was only 15 minutes away and could do nothing about it. My best friend was supposed to be on that mission, but Major Kevin Jenerette told him to stay back, take a shower, and get some hot chow. Those were luxury items down in the valley. Nobody survived the blast. Major J didn’t even have to be in that valley. He was our regimental executive officer, but he insisted on being there. The rest of our chain of command hardly ever came out. Major J defined leadership by his words and actions, even up to the end. He could have stayed back for some chow, but he insisted one of his “joes” get the chance. I didn’t know Jeffrey Jordon. I think he was 21 when he died. John was up in the gunner’s turret. The IED ripped through the HMMWV (Humvee) right below where he was standing. I could see it in my Captain’s eyes when he told us. The few of us who knew Maj. J or John couldn’t contain our emotions. Fear, grief, sadness, and anger raged through my veins…still does. When we left the wire, we went seeking revenge. It doesn’t matter what happened next really, my friend was gone, his wife widowed, and his children would now grow up without a dad. He was out there just doing his job. Two weeks before that another IED ripped through a HMMWV. Another one of my friends lost his leg. That should have been me on that truck. Because of rank and the ease of getting resupplied, we switched teams so that I could be the one to argue with the higher ups. I was trying to make his deployment easier. Guilt will never leave my heart. In that same blast, another guy I knew broke his back. He was set to retire after that deployment. He has a made a full recovery. Also, a young man I didn’t know, but got to know well, received a head wound. I did some wound care for him early on and he returned to duty. You see, Memorial Day is not a day for hot dogs and lakes for me. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be that for you, but as the divide between soldier and civilian grows, hearing stories like this will bring us back together. We live in a world where our nation is still at war, yet we get upset when our coffee takes to long. We complain about the heat or the cold, while .4% of our population is serving in our military today. While they are not first class citizens, they are important. They need their stories herd. I am a veteran, but this weekend is not for me. Please don’t thank me for my service. Listen to stories about my friends who this day is for; SFC John Beale, MAJ Kevin Jenerette, SGT Jeff Jordan, and others like them that didn’t come home. I miss my friend John, and I think of him often. I see his family on Facebook and chat through there. His daughter just graduated from high school. He loved Peanut M&Ms.

Pocket Parks

So I was thinking…or so goes the line. We have a couple of great spaces where we could have little “pocket parks” right in the downtown area. In a way, that is what TORCH is working to do, but I am also thinking about true greenspaces compared to a boardwalk. What is a pocket park? According to an article by Alison Blake, “pocket parks, also known as minipark or vest-pocket parks, are urban open space at the very small scale. Usually only a few house lots in size or smaller, pocket parks can be tucked into and scattered throughout the urban fabric where they serve the immediately local population.” Philadelphia was one of the first cities to do it. Savannah has a whole series of them. Now cities, big and small, are coming together through community activism, foundations, and public-private partnerships to install these little gems anywhere there is vacant lot that might currently be an eye soar, or a hidden away and forgotten space that you only consider from time to time. In fact, Hartwell already has a large version at the incredible Botanical Garden. If you haven’t been, you really must! The flowers are blooming, there are trails to walk, and even a playground for the kids to play on. It is a perfect park. What I am advocating is for a miniature (or several miniature) versions around the downtown area. There are places, both on and off the square that are within walking distance that would be ideal. It will take some work though. Convincing folks is the first task. The investment is worth it! The economic benefits of greenspace in communities is not questionable. But never mind that, “greenery within pocket parks can help regulate microclimates and act as the ‘lungs’ of the city, while permeable surfaces increase infiltration.” Alison’s article goes on to talk about how smaller “pocket parks” within walking distance of a city center, reduce wear and tear on bigger parks where active play might take away from their ecological functions. Investments in these parks create a win-win. You can enjoy your lunch outdoors, bigger parks won’t need as many resources devoted to repair, and the ecosystem benefits in many ways. I wonder if there are any other like-minded folks that want to build a coalition and start a pocket park? A little effort will go a long way.

Dusty Slay Comedy Show

Dusty Slay is coming to Hartwell and Hartwell’s Main Street Program has you covered! We are raffling off front row seats between now and Cars n’ Guitars! $5 bucks will get you a ticket to potentially win these up front and center tickets! You can start buying raffle tickets ahead of time at

Just make sure you put $5 in the “other” amount box. Also, make sure the “share my name and email with this charity” box is checked so we who you are to put your name in the hat! I hope YOU win!

Thank You!

I wanted to just take a moment to say thank you to the volunteers that came out to the #KeepHartClean event Saturday morning. Leadership Hart, partnering with Leadership Hart Youth, organized a community clean-up event. This event was born out of a discussion on Economic Development as well as the importance of #LovingWhereYouLive. I must say, Hartwell residents stepped up to the plate in a big fashion. 81 volunteers came out and worked for three hours resulting in 3-4 truckloads, as well as one trailer full of trash being cleared away from the side of our roads. We targeted two areas, but had such a great turn out, we were able to spill over into others. Lately, I have been discussing the great spirit of volunteerism that exists in our community. It is something we should all take pride in. For a first annual event, Leadership Hart class of 2019 could not be more proud of the results. Now we have to keep the momentum going. I ask that everyone thinks before throwing trash out on the side of the road. It not only takes away from the natural beauty of our region, but it could mean the loss of all of those great businesses we would like to see coming to town with JOBS! I thank you for your effort in that regard, I also look forward to seeing you out on the roads next year. That’s right, next year we hope to be out there again. Earth Day is about sustainability and loving our planet, that is why we picked the time of year we did to do this event so we have a target for next year. Let’s #KeepHartClean and show everyone that #LovingWhereYouLive is a year-round tradition in Hartwell. Again, thank you Hartwell!

Hartwell Main Street Partners

The Hartwell DDA is actually a nonprofit organization. We are a 501 (c) 3, which means donations to us are considered charitable giving for tax purposes. If it is in your means, please consider donating to us so that we can continue to provide services to our merchants, citizens, and tourists. The events we put on cost money and our budget is small. Every penny helps. Thank you so much for considering us. You can donate at the following link.

Need Your Support

Hartwell Main Street needs your support. Your generosity by the way of sponsorships is what keeps us in business and it is greatly needed. I understand that there is a competitive market to earn your donations. That’s why I have included a list of partner benefits below. In addition to the partner benefits, as a sponsor, you will be advertised at each event, on our website, and anywhere else I can get your name in to publications as a DDA Sponsor.

Ways the Hartwell DDA produces results:

Marketing & Public Relations

  • Downtown Event Participation & Sponsorships
  • Advertising through our website and Social Media
  • Business Spotlight Blog
  • FREE listing on
  • Publicity/Media Story Creation & Dissemination

Public Improvements & Maintenance

  • Streetscape Improvement Projects
  • Landscape & Flower Installation & Maintenance
  • Design Services

​ Issue Management & Advocacy

  • Government Issues & Policies (Local, State & National)
  • Consumer Assistance

​Financial Assistance

  • DDA Façade Grant – Up to $1000 Reimbursement for Exterior Improvements
  • Economic Redevelopment Grant – Fundraiser to Support Redevelopment Projects
  • Assistance with State, National & Historic Tax Incentives

Business Start Up, Development & Education

  • Small Business Development Protocol
  • Assistance with Permits, Applications, Zoning
  • Property Listing on
  • Consultations Services & Workshops
  • Retention visits with existing businesses to help navigate tools and assistance programs
Simply open the camera on your phone and point it at the QR code. A link will pop up at the top to our PayPal account where you can select one of three options. a $500 level, $1000 level, and a $1500 level. That said, any amount is appreciated. There is an “enter other amount” available also. Thank you for supporting our organization. We will be good stewards of your dollars and use it to serve our community.

Placemaking: Why We Do What We Do

Believe it or not, there are actual strategies that go into planning projects in and for communities. I know at times things can seem somewhat haphazard, but there really is a method to the madness. That said, what works in one place doesn’t necessarily translate to another. According to Project for Public Spaces (PSS), “placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.” Here at Hartwell’s Main Street Program, we do this through Main Street’s four-point approach of Design, Promotions, Economic Vitality, and Organization. Effective placemaking takes a collaborative effort between citizens, business owners, and government to create a place where people want to be. This weekend was a perfect example of that. We had several events going on in Hartwell. Plant sales, antique boat shows, and dog walks were all on the calendar. From what I saw, they were all well attended, safe, and fun events. It took volunteers, corporate partners, city and county resources, and participation from folks in the area to make it a great weekend. The goal should be to focus on place. This place. Hartwell. With that in mind, there are 11 key elements to placemaking. 1) The community is the expert. Specifically, the people of the community are the experts, and your voices are necessary. 2) Create a place, not a design. Design is not enough; there has to be a sence of vitality to the project as in, we cannot do without this. 3) Look for partners. In today’s world, there has to be a collaboration between public works, private investment, and civil society resources to fill gaps in our community. 4) You can see a lot by observing. Much can be gained from seeing others successes and failures. We can learn what to add and subtract from our communities by looking to other locations in the state and region. 5) Have a vision. It is not enough to say “be the best.” We can’t be the best at everything, that is reality. We can identify what we are really great at, what we are good enough at, and what we need to work on. Energy and effort should be placed in the latter category. 6) Start with petunias: Lighter, quicker, cheaper. Public spaces are complex. It is better to do a few small things really well before jumping on to enormous projects. Murals and community gardens are a great jumping off point. 7) Triangulate. “Triangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each other” (Holly Whyte). Resources may not get used if they are placed in the public space without much thought. If resources are arranged systematically, then they can be used and enjoyed by everyone. 8) They always say “it can’t be done.” Who are “they?” I often here about “they.” I hear, “they should do something about this or that” a lot. There will always be naysayers, but let me fill you in on a secret, “they” are you and me. We are guilty of getting in our own way at times. I promise it can be done, because people are out there doing it. We can do it too. 9) Form supports function. “The input from the community and potential partners, the understanding of how other spaces function, the experimentation, and overcoming the obstacles and naysayers provides the concept for the space. Although design is important, these other elements tell you what “form” you need to accomplish the future vision for the space.” -PSS. 10) Money is not the issue. When the community brings their resources together to accomplish all of the items we all say we want, many hands will make light work, and 11) You are never finished. Making our community great does not have and end state. If for no other reason, new technology comes along constantly and I promise you, we want it too. That said, we must be open to change, and flexible enough to seize opportunity when it presents itself. We started the 11 key elements of placemaking with the foundation of Hartwell as the place. Now we need to apply these 11 elements to our place.

Main Street Reaccreditation

I am happy to report that our Accreditation as a Main Street Program has been complete. Hartwell is again recognized as a Classic Main Street Community for 2019 at both the state and national levels. To achieve this, there are fourteen (14) categories that are audited. We must provide a map of our district, have an organizational chart, develop a mission/vision statement, have an annual work plan, provide all board meeting agendas and minutes, have a signed Memorandum of Understanding, provide a board roster, have bylaws, provide our annual budget, have a main street manager job description, main street staff job descriptions (we have volunteers), have a training log, have a national main street accreditation, and provide monthly community activity reports. This process will be changing to an oral interview and presentation for 2020 reaccreditation and I hope to receive as much if not more support for that process as I have for the 2019 process. Thank you to everyone who has contributed and participated in Main Street events. I am still the new guy and have a lot to learn, so it means a lot to me to have a team of folks willing to give their time and talent to our success.

Davos, The World Economic Forum, and Hartwell

What is Davos? We hear about it on the news frequently. Well Davos is not a thing, it is a place. Every year, The World Economic Forum and national leaders meet in Davos, Switzerland to address poverty, economic growth, and sustainable development issues. Here at home, we think of Economic Development as bringing new businesses to the community. Economic Development has to be more than just ribbon cuttings. Economic Growth has to be about reducing poverty in our community. Back to Davos; world leaders came together three years ago and developed the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in order to address poverty and other development issues. This program is a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals that were developed at the turn of the century, and to date, extreme poverty has been reduced globally by 50%. Extreme poverty is defined as people living on less than $2 per day. There is still work to be done. Poverty is a global problem, but it is a local one as well. So how does an international plan help us here in Hartwell? How do we localize their discussions? Well, we often think of poverty as a problem in some far off land, in a less developed country, and the people who are affected by poverty as living in tribal societies or cram packed cities. You may be shocked to learn that the poverty rate in Hartwell is 22.97%. Nearly 1 in 4 people in our community are being impacted by poverty; this comes with secondary and tertiary effects like poor health, food insecurity, and limited equality for women and children. The good news is, Hartwell is doing something about it. We have a poverty taskforce that is working to address the needs of our community. We have an excellent civil society infrastructure in place working to identify and support folks right here at home. Of course our local churches do amazing work to support our community. I do wonder if there is room for a focused approach that brings all of these resources together, and I believe the answer is yes. The Global Goals found inside the 2030 Agenda are designed to take a holistic approach to policy creation and implementation. Below is an image of the 17 Global Goals. I want you to think of them as stackable. That is, if reducing poverty is the ultimate goal, you may need to start at another location to be most effective. For example, we may see Zero Hunger (Goal 2) as the greatest need. To address that, Responsible Consumption and Production (Goal 12) needs to be prioritized to keep Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6) at appropriate levels for cooking and hygiene purposes. This supports Good Health and Well-being (Goal 3). In turn, kids go to school regularly so they get a Quality Education (Goal 4), which means they get Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8). More money in folks pockets reduces poverty (Goal 1). When poverty is reduced, there are Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10), and when inequalities get eliminated, a more diverse population addresses issues like Affordable and Clean Energy (Goal 7), and Life Below Water/on Land (Goals 14 &15). The other interesting part about The Global Goals is success is already defined. There are 140+ targets and indicators that let communities know what success looks like. Policy makers need only add in local realities for a plan to take shape. By aligning all the good work that is already happening in Hartwell with the language found in the Global Goals, we can make giant strides towards implementing comprehensive plans that will reduce poverty in our community. It is easy to dismiss international discussions on development considering how far away these problems sometimes feel. The reality is, poverty and development issues exist here too. It is estimated that there is a $2 trillion dollar funding gap in development worldwide per year. This means locally, economic growth is required to be successful. The Global Goals provide a path to focusing policy in terms of taxation and efficient spending necessary to achieve positive results. For more information on The Global Goals, take a look at or

The Global Goals
The Development Landscape