The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 50

The men of the moment
at the time of Design '79
were chief designer Chad
Floyd (top) and Roanoke
City Manager Bern Ewert.

I was appointed city manager of Roanoke Thanksgiving
eve, 1977 and began work in January of 1978. City
Council had interviewed other candidates before me
and had offered two of them the position; but neither
accepted. They interviewed me a month after the
others when I made a trip through Roanoke after a
convention in Atlanta. Mayor Taylor spoke with me
by phone and asked that I call Council Member Bill
Hubard and ask if he would see me. He agreed and
we had lunch at the Shenandoah Life cafeteria. The
lunch group consisted of my wife, Janet, Bill, Council
Member Lucien Grove and me. Bill was legal counsel
for Shenandoah Life and Lucien owned his own utility
construction company. I had just turned 35 and was a
bit nervous. Later, I was called back, interviewed by
the entire Roanoke City Council and then offered the
job. Roanoke was my city management dream job.
The mayor and city council were always clear
about their priorities:
1. Reduce tax rates and eliminate some taxes
2. Integrate the segregated City Work force
3. Revitalize the downtown
4. Make the city operations more efficient
5. Make the city safer
6. Beautify the city
New council members would come and old members
would leave; but these priorities never changed. -BE

ideas. This office received 3,000 suggestions. Finally I
established two leaders committees, one with 50 citizens
and one with 14 business leaders. This model was, "unprecedented in the history of urban design," according
to Floyd.
I invited all business leaders to participate. Jack Fishwick, CEO and President of the Norfolk and Western,
had a policy of not participating in civic ventures as he
didn't want to appear to be forcing the city to do what
the railroad wanted. It took hard work to convince him
that we needed him.
Before the business committee began its work, Ed


Mattern, a founder of Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern
asked to meet with me. Ed was a friend of mine and a
man I greatly respected. He was also twice my age. He
told me that the business committee didn't want to proceed unless its authority was clearly described in a written document signed by him and me. I refused to enter
into such an agreement, telling him that they would be
pleased with the process and if not they certainly didn't
need to continue participation. He reluctantly agreed
and we continued our work.
Our overall plan recommended 59 different projects,
highlighted by Center in the Square, and any one of



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - September/October 2014