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Bowers Optimistic During State of the City

Roanoke police officer Bryan Lawrence (seated at center) is recognized at the State of the City event.
Roanoke police officer Bryan Lawrence (seated at center) is recognized at the State of the City event.

They said the notion of an accredited medical school in Roanoke was “laughable” 10 years ago – and look what Carilion and Virginia Tech are doing now? That was the gist of Roanoke City mayor David Bowers’ contention as he threw down another gauntlet during the annual State of the City address last week. Bowers, an attorney by trade, would like to see local business and civic leaders start talking about building a law school in the Star City. After all, Bowers pointed out, “little Grundy has one.”

“We can do this in Roanoke,” said Bowers, reading from his remarks at the Sheraton Plaza to a room full of invited guests.  “I think it’s important for us to stimulate the thought that a law school should be here in [downtown] Roanoke near our City Courthouse and the United States Federal Courthouse.”

Bowers also touted the city’s ongoing efforts to finish the greenway system and the upcoming capital projects for the City Market building and Elmwood Park amphitheater. He also mentioned the “struggle to bring our graduation rates up in our public schools,” and the imminent opening of the new William Fleming High School complex.

“This is a magical city …a great place to live, raise a family and to work and visit,” said the mayor, who returned to office last year after being away from city council for years.

Bowers singled out several Roanoke officials for their efforts, including fellow council member David Trinkle for his leadership position on budget negotiations with the cash-strapped School Board, and for helping to “engineer a balanced budget without a tax increase.”  Bowers said Trinkle may have learned some tricks from his father, long time realtor Jimmy Trinkle, and from his grandfather, who was a governor of Virginia.

In regards to the market building and on-again amphitheater project, Trinkle noted Bowers, “has been a driving force in moving these two projects along for the benefit of our city.”

Bowers praised outgoing City Manager Darlene Burcham, who has been pushed into  retirement next spring by council members seeking a change.

“Sometimes it seems like two steps forward and one step back, but nonetheless, our city has made progress under the administration of Ms. Burcham.”

The mayor touted the Riverside Medical Center complex, an improved library system and the construction of LEED-certified energy efficient public buildings as some of Burcham’s greatest accomplishments during more than nine years at the helm.

“She’s worked hard for the people of Roanoke and served honorably,” said Bowers.

The late David Lisk was honored for his service to the city, including a stint on council, and Citizen of the Year Estelle McCadden was recognized (in the audience) for her decades of volunteer leadership.

Roanoke City police officer Bryan Lawrence, partially paralyzed when he went to investigate a robbery call last year, drew a standing ovation when cited by Bowers.

Lawrence, who uses a wheelchair, returned to work last week in a part time crime prevention role.

“His spirit is so strong and cheerful,” Bowers told invited guests, “[and] we want you to walk again.”

By Gene Marrano
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