Walking and talking: Residents join China Grove mayor for monthly stroll

Published 12:10 am Friday, August 11, 2023

CHINA GROVE — Getting to know someone takes steps, even if it’s a mayor. 

On the first Sunday of every month, China Grove Mayor Charles Seaford has been holding a walking, open-forum discussion event to get out and meet with citizens.

“It’s a health initiative,” Seaford said. “I could do a sit-down fireside chat and have a thing each month, and citizens come in and ask questions, but I thought it would be more informal if we walked, and I could mingle with different people as we walk around and have an open, honest chat.”

Like a lot of health-related resolutions, the walks began on Jan. 1. 

“It was New Year’s Day,” Town Manager Franklin Gover said. “Mayor Seaford wanted to start 2023 off in a health-focused way. It’s a really good time to get together.”

Seaford added, “It was self-motivation. I know I need to walk, and I need to walk more. If I have a good reason, then I will get out and do all that I can.”

One simple idea has turned into a monthly get-together with various town residents who have taken the chance to bend the mayor’s ear or get inside his head.

“When people come and ask questions, they are concerned about certain things,” Gover said. “It’s a good opportunity to get a couple of minutes with the mayor or me and to get the town’s point of view on the issues.”

At first, the group would set off from town hall and make their way downtown, which lent itself to the discussion topics.  

“We talked a little bit about the downtown revitalization and what they would like to see,” Seaford said.

Gover added, “(Event Coordinator) Jill Sellers runs the show. People want to know current events and future plans. Sometimes people are just curious about one thing in town. Usually, we have the answer.”

Now, the walks have moved to the Community Memorial Building, where the town has a small park area and a quarter-mile loop to walk, which they usually lap four times for the entire mile.

While the monthly walks have remained consistent, except for one summer day when it was too hot, Seaford said he would like to see more turnout. 

“I wish I had to walk four miles to get with everyone there,” Seaford said. 

Besides the mayor and town administrators, on a given Sunday, one would be liable to see town council members out there, too.

“You never know who is going to show up,” Gover said.

Council Member Cheryl Sheets was at the most recent walk. 

“It has been good to see the mayor be one on one and be personable, approachable and engage in a conversation,” Sheets said. “Some citizens would make recommendations, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about this?’ The citizens felt like it was a free zone to make recommendations and ask questions.”

Sheets, who usually goes as a citizen, likes to show her support. 

“(Seaford) He makes it open and available, so I want people to know that I support him and the opportunity he is giving them,” Sheets said. 

The next walk is scheduled for Sept. 3 at Community Memorial Park, 412 S. Myrtle Ave., China Grove, at 3 p.m.