Feb. 14—BLUEFIELD —
Rideout, a retired
"We absolutely love this area," he said of himself and wife Karen, adding that both of them settled in, she opened a business in
But Rideout said they did not realize how strong the "draw of our children" was going to be, and when their daughter, who lives near the area where he will be working as town manager of
Not only that, it is close to a military base, Ft. Bragg, which is important to Rideout with his military connections.
The location is also a little closer to his parents, who live in
"I need to be able to react to a medical issue as fast as possible if they need me," he said.
Another reason relates to the town itself, which he describes as similar to
"We want to make the house a grandbaby magnet," he said.
All of that is positive, but Rideout said they will miss the area, the people, and especially city staff and elected officials who run the city.
"The new board under
City staff is also outstanding, he said, "They know what the mission is and they know how to accomplish the mission within those parameters."
Rideout said staff members are "great stewards of our processes" and the employee turnover rate in the city has gone "dramatically down" as the right people have been hired for the right job.
For example, Police Chief
People used to be afraid to visit the downtown area after dark, he said, but all of that has changed.
He also praised
"She is phenomenal and is a tremendous leader," he said. "They call her 'Mama Bear.'"
Rideout said she is responsible for making sure all the work that is needed in the city, from snowplowing to street maintenance to sanitization, is done.
As far as the state of the city he is leaving behind when he takes his new job in April is concerned, Rideout said many major components are in place moving the city toward growth and economic development and it was a matter of trying to "reinvent
One giant move was the development at Exit 1 on
After minimal activity at that exit for decades, the process of developing it by providing "shovel ready" places for businesses to locate is well under way.
That development is predicted to boost activity along
"People will be extremely happy about what is happening at Exit 1," Rideout said. "It will have a major impact on the city."
The more than
The city owns more than 80 acres around the headquarters of the Bluefield Area Transit (BAT) and 12 to 15 sites will be developed.
The Exit 1 project can also work in tandem with another huge project that the city has started, the Thoroughbred Bulk Transportation (TBT) facility in
The facility would serve as a hub that allows customers to transfer a large array of commodities between rail cars and trucks.
Rideout said the concept was not his idea, but he embraced it and recognized it is the best way the city can work with the railroad to benefit both, as well as spawn related businesses in the area.
"We are a third of the way through the Demand Study (to determine future demand and need)," he said, with location and economic impact studies coming.
Rideout is also proud of the new
The 2,200-sq.-ft. facility will serve to finally provide BAT riders with a new place that provides all the amenities they have never had before, when they had to use an outdoor kiosk with no indoor shelter or bathrooms.
All of this portends well for the city, and Rideout is especially proud of
"Look at what has happened in the downtown area," he said. "People were scared to go downtown after dark. It was depressing."
One of the biggest changes has been Intuit/
"Who would think you could drive around downtown and see something like Intuit?" he said. "You would think you are in
The city embarked on a plan to provide enough parking spaces for employees as well as to accommodate the expected growth.
Before Intuit, a revitalization led by former Mayor
"He invested first in the RailYard and that started snowballing." Rideout said, with other businesses following and more anticipated.
Rideout is also enthusiastic about the renovation of the historic
"They did it right," he said of the attention paid to restoration details.
The quality of life aspect is crucial, he said, adding that the housing market is also improving, citing the trend now of people leaving heavily populated urban centers and looking for areas that may have the "unique housing stock" that
While he has seen great things here, he also saw a tragedy that he will always carry with him.
The death of
Rideout said it was a "horrible" experience and even his often tough duties in the military could not prepare him for that.
Another very different, but difficult time, was when
"We lost 9 percent of our budget in one fell swoop," he said of the for-profit, tax-paying hospital that was sold in 2019 to the non-profit and non-taxable
Fortunately, he said, the city had already put in place efficiency standards that helped cut back on expenses but still retain essential services.
"This is a beautiful and safe place to live," he said, and also a difficult place to leave.
But as he prepares to leave, Rideout said the city is in solid hands.
"We have some very creative, forward thinking, elected officials," he said of city officials. "They ran because they are working to be part of something bigger than themselves and not because they are upset about something. They have vision and the mental capacity to take this city to the next level."
Moving from one place to another has been a way of life for Rideout, son of a Marine.
"I went to high school in
Nevertheless, this move will be a particularly tough one, he said, not because of where he is going — he is excited about that.
Rather, it's because of what he is leaving.
"I love this job and the people," he said. "This was a very tough decision, but it was the right decision, and we are excited to start the next chapter of our lives."
Rideout's departure is tough, said Martin, who was elected mayor in 2017, because he has been both "a valued colleague and a close personal friend."
"Dane's tenure as City Manager has been marked by a renaissance in
Martin also said Rideout brought "energy, enthusiasm, and, above all, a passion for our City and its value as a place to live, work, play and learn."
"Naturally, as Mayor, I hate to see him leave," he said. "As his friend, however, I am extremely happy for him. As Dane previously stated, his life of service has involved frequent absences from his family. With a newly born grandchild and another on the way, the position he is taking in
Martin said Rideout's wife Karen, who owns
Work has already started in finding a replacement for Rideout.
"We have already begun advertising for the position of City Manager," he said. "The position will remain open until
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