Editorial: Geathers can still serve Kannapolis
If city leaders are wise ó and Ken Geathers is willing ó theyíll find a way to keep the longtime councilman involved in the life of Kannapolis. Failure to do so would be a loss not only for Geathers, who came up short in his re-election bid this year, but for the city as a whole.
Geathers, 66, took his seat on the City Council for what is likely to be the final time Monday. His exit makes way for Ryan Dayvault, who tallied the most votes in the race for three spots on the board in the Nov. 8 elections.
Dayvault, at 26, represents the next generation of civic leadership in Kannapolis. Geathers is the last member of the first generation.
Appointed to an interim council when the city emerged from the paternal shadow of Cannon Mills and incorporated in 1984, Geathers became one of its first elected officials when the new cityís residents got their first chance to vote for their leaders in April 1985.
This yearís defeat was not Geathersí first loss. He came up short in his 1993 re-election bid. That year, the council appointed him to serve out the term of Richard Anderson, a mid-term councilman who had won the mayorís office.
Geathers never served as mayor of Kannapolis. He never ran for the office. Over the years, though, he served an essential role on the board as a calm, steady presence and voice of reason no matter the obstacle or issue. He often counterbalanced Anderson, who could let his emotions seep into policy discussions.
Well-reasoned didnít always translate into success. In the mid-90s, Geathers voted in favor of public funding for Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, now home of the Kannapolis Intimidators. He said at the time he believed the stadium would help the city compete with surrounding ěaggressiveî municipalities in attracting more business.
That didnít happen, and the stadium has been a political hot potato since its construction, its ownership and debt a point of contention between Kannapolis and Rowan County. But Geathers said of his support that Kannapolis had to ěmake things happenî to expand its tax base, and his vote showed he wasnít afraid to do that.
Most of the time, Geathers was pragmatic. As a candidate for re-election in 1993, he identified as a weakness that the city had only one major industry, even as he was employed as a personnel manager for that company, Fieldcrest Cannon.
He worked there until the mill, then known as Pillowtex, closed in 2003. In later interviews, he likened that to the death of parents, saying the city was being forced to grow up. More pragmatism.
Even so, over the past several years, as Kannapolis works to transform itself from a mill town into a biotechnology hub, Geathers has shown a continued willingness to take risks if the potential rewards are enticing enough ó this time public-private partnerships in a new industry that could sustain jobs for decades to come.
Dayvaultís election sends a good message to the young professionals who might begin their careers at the N.C. Research Campus ó that Kannapolis is forward-looking place to live as well as work.
By convincing Geathers to serve in some capacity, city leaders would be sending another good message: that they value history and experience and while Kannapolis strives toward its future, the city is not forgetting its past.