In 1992, Davidson, North Carolina began a conversation about public health years ahead of the national curve with community gatherings that eventually culminated in the writing of their General Plan. In 2010, the Town Board continued a show of visionary leadership by adopting the Davidson Comprehensive Plan and a renewed vision as expressed through the Plan’s Core Values. These comprehensive values focused on the creation and preservation of a healthy environment; village-centered growth with connection of neighborhoods via sidewalks, bike paths, greenways, connected streets, and transit; reservation of rural areas; provision of public spaces, and, protection of watersheds, trees, air quality, and other elements of the Town’s ecology. These Core Values outline the sort of integrated thinking needed to build a healthy community, and not coincidentally, address many of the criteria considered in the emerging field of Health Impact Assessments (HIA). As such, these local plans and others adopted by the Town Board make Davidson worthy of emulation, and as a helpful case study for other communities aspiring to become healthier places. Their good work is the focus of Small Town Fit.
Deb Ryan has a 25-year history of assisting communities and their leaders with challenges relating to development, urban open space, downtown revitalization, healthy communities and civic engagement in the community planning process. As an Associate Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UNCC, she was the founding and former Director of the Charlotte Community Design Studio, Director of the Urban Open Space Leadership Institute (OSL) and Director of the Mayor’s Institute on City Design: South. Formerly, she taught at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and led the urban design efforts at the Freelon Group. A recognized expert on civic engagement and the use of the Web 2.0 in the community planning process, Deb has lectured across the country on the subject, led webinars for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and and been a featured guest on Smart City Radio. She is the founder and managing principal of both Ryan-Harris, LLC and Wikiplanning.