Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Conversation with Mr. David Sides, Cheraw South Carolina’s Director of Tourism and Community Development

Late last month I had the opportunity to meet Mr. David Sides, Director of Tourism and Community Development for the Town of Cheraw, South Carolina.

As Mr. Sides’ job title suggests, he’s a busy fellow! Running – sometimes literally – from meeting to meeting; writing grant proposals and memoranda. Most anything you might think of to help present Cheraw’s remarkable history and beauty to the public. So I was glad to catch him.

We met on Wednesday morning in Cheraw’s Lyceum Museum. You' may be able to hear traffic moving along the street outside as we talk.

This building, by the way, is well worth a visit. Built in either 1820 or 1825, it served first as a chancery courtroom, then as a library and home of Cheraw’s Lyceum. Part of the mid-nineteenth century Lyceum Movement that brought public educational programs to towns like Cheraw.

During the War [Civil War, of course] it was a Confederate telegraph office, and then quartermaster’s headquarters for first Confederate and then Federal troops. It later served again as Cheraw’s Town Library once books lost to marauding Federal troops could be replaced. You may be surprised by its size when you visit. It was smaller than I expected. Like many 18th century and early 19th century public buildings.

I began as usual by asking Mr. Sides to tell us about his personal background, education, and early career. Have a listen:

It’s a delight to meet with a public information person actually has roots in the community he or she represents.

Mr. Sides has lived in Cheraw for over 30 years, knows a lot about it, and considers it home. His infectious enthusiasm for his “home town” is more than a job. And, his long experience in public outreach and advertising gives him the skills necessary to present what he knows about Cheraw from first-hand experience to the general public. A great combination.

We then shifted to Mr. Sides’ current responsibilities for the Town of Cheraw. One would think that tourism and community development would be two separate portfolios. But Mr. Sides explains here how they work together.

I was especially interested in the annual projects sponsored by Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Cheraw” program. It brought to mind a similar program in Greenville, South Carolina. Both of these communities, on different scales, reflect the results of such innovation-inspiring programs.

Cheraw, like many other South Carolina towns, has been hit hard by the loss of employment-generating textile plants in recent decades. So I asked Mr. Sides about the current business climate. Here is his reply:

Mr. Sides’ response helps explain what I’d been seeing while wandering around Cheraw and its environs. Determination to recover from recent employment loss; mobilization of existing physical and cultural assets to increase Cheraw’s appeal for potential new investors, tourists, and residents; and a general, difficult-to-define “get ‘er dun,” or what we used to call a “can-do,” attitude. Whatever it is, it’s working.

Finally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask about the Historic Cheraw Cellphone Tour I had taken earlier in the week. I learned from other sources in Cheraw that Mr. Sides had been involved in this project from the very beginning:

Here, he gives much of the credit for this innovative program that combines history and technology to a forward-looking Town Council and Town administrators. With prodding he did admit that he wrote and re-wrote the scripts, and was at True Blue Advertising when the project started. Mr. Sides, it seems, does effective PR for everyone but himself!

Thanks again, Mr. Sides, for taking the time to talk with CarolinaConsidered. Your work in Cheraw is an inspiration for other towns in South Carolina facing the need to innovate and recover.

If you had difficulty listening to the audio segments of the interview via the embedded players above, here are direct links to the files on the Libsyn site where they’re hosted.





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