New Sensation: Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke (VA), Economic Development

Posted on February 18, 2014

We’re back with the new “New Sensation” feature. We’ve updated the questions based on your feedback. You’ll now learn about the best YouTube videos on the web, read about gift ideas for the holiday season, and learn about the career accomplishments of our new members.  As a reminder, we developed this feature to introduce you to new ELGL members and as a way on connecting ELGL members with similar interests.


Marc Nelson


Roanoke (VA), Special Projects Coordinator

Experience: Development Services Liaison, City of Savannah

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, MPA and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), History

Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Lightning Round



Tell us about three of your biggest accomplishments.

downloadMarrying my wife (2000) – On my wedding day, a groomsman pulled me aside and said “You’re really lucky. She’s lucky, too, but you’re really lucky.” What was true fourteen years ago is even more so today.

Assisting in the delivery of my daughter (May 13, 2013) – When I entered the delivery room, I immediately scoped out the darkest, coolest spot just in case I had to curl into the fetal position. Not only was that not a problem, I actually played an active role in delivering her. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of when something is truly important to you.

Being selected as the City of Savannah’s Management Fellow (2004) – What started out as a stepping stone job became so much more for me and my family. Not only did I work for two men who would eventually become mentors, I also had room to grow in a supportive environment and developed a lifelong love for a wonderful city. Easily the best career choice I’ve made.

(Complete this sentence) I feel old when ……..a teenaged grocery store clerk asks for my I.D. when buying wine, not because I look underage but because she thinks I’m a police officer.

Tell us about two mistakes that you’ve made that we can learn from.

images (1)Not saving for retirement sooner. Opening and contributing to a supplemental retirement account (i.e. an ICMA 457) in your 20’s can help shape your future in a very positive way. I really wish someone had told me that when I was 24 years old.

Saying “yes” to everything you’re asked to do. Sometimes, doing your job well means saying “no” to some of the extracurricular assignments that might distract from your core responsibilities. It’s important to be diplomatic, as well as honest, when doing so, but no one will remember you manning a booth at Earth Day if it causes you to miss a key assignment.

Give us three of your favorite YouTube videos.

Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” (web series)

Human Giant: Mother-Son Moving Company

Parks and Recreation: Leslie’s Ice Rink Campaign Stop


As part of being an ELGL member, we give you a chance to redo or change any part of your life. How would you use it?

(Note: My life is perfect, I am perfect, I would never change anything is not an acceptable response.)

I would have developed more outside interests earlier in my career. For years, it seemed as though my only two hobbies were driving moving trucks and starting new jobs. It gets harder to find the time for new outlets once you have a family and have moved up the ladder in an organization.

Our annual conference will be held in October 2014. Name three topics or speakers that should be included on the conference agenda.

afdfdMaking performance agreements work for your organization – Public servants no longer flinch at the notion of governments having to do more with less these days. Many municipalities continue to struggle with declining revenues and lack the vision, creativity and/or flexibility necessary to attract new development or to revitalize existing depressed neighborhoods. Local governments can utilize performance agreements in working with private sector developers to address anticipated needs such as public infrastructure, roads and open space. The City of Roanoke uses them on a regular basis and it would be great to learn more about how they are used in other places.

The Revitalization of Downtown Greenville – A lot of folks have heaped praise on the hipster mecca that is Asheville, North Carolina. But, not nearly as many know the story of Greenville, South Carolina the former mill town in the same region that used an ambitious Tax Allocation District to transform its downtown into a cultural epicenter for the region while also attracting high profile companies like Michelin U.S. and BMW. Municipalities often talk a good game when it comes to downtown and citywide revitalization. Former Mayor Knox White can speak to how it was actually done in Greenville.



Planning for Economic Development – Sometimes, the mandate-driven work of inspections and permitting conflicts with the practical, deadline-driven world of Economic Development. It would be great to learn from organizations that have successfully worked through such conflicts.

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….

80’s was……. the ability to wear an “Iron Maiden” t-shirt unironically.dfdf

90’s was…… attending college at the University of North Carolina.

00’s was….. marrying my wife and launching my career in Savannah, Georgia.

Last year was….the birth of my daughter.

Today is…. being at home with my family on a snow day in Roanoke.

Name two of your mentors and describe them in five words.

Chris Morrill, City Manager, City of Roanoke, VA – Innovative, compassionate, patient, genuine, visionary.

Bob Scanlon, Development Services Bureau Chief (retired), City of Savannah, GA – Practical, selfless, diplomatic, respected, flexible.

What’s your least favorite thing about humanity? That anyone could even entertain the notion of abusing children.

How did you hear about ELGL? Two of my closest friends have played pivotal roles in creating the organization and helping it to grow. Their enthusiasm for ELGL and the work they do as public servants is infectious.

Fast forward one year, what will factor into your decision on whether to renew your ELGL membership?

As long as ELGL continues to be forward thinking and innovative in how it approaches our profession, you can count on my $30. Needless to say, I’m not too worried about it.

download (1)Give us two ideas for attracting and retaining talented individuals to the public sector.

Student loan forgiveness – Help make it possible for talented individuals to do what they want to do in becoming public servants, rather than what they have to do to avoid drowning in a sea of debt loads and interest payments.

Roadmaps for Advancement – Governments need to create clear roadmaps for talented individuals to ensure they feel valued and can envision their future within the organization.

What one question you have about ELGL?



What are the chances of scoring Billy Ray Cyrus to perform the hip-hop reboot of “Achy Breaky Heart” at the 2014 conference?

Supplemental Readingimages (2)

Savannah’s City Manager Search: I Miss Chris Morrill

City Hires Special Projects Coordinator

moreFRONT: City Hires EconDev Projects Coordinator

Board | Master of Public Administration | UNC School of Government

On Campus with the Carolina MPA Program

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