For Danville officials, All-America award is about more than just signs

Besides new signs at the gateways into Danville, the city’s recently-won All-America City award should benefit the River City in other ways, local officials say.

Less tangible rewards from the designation include a sense of pride among citizens and a psychological boost for municipal employees.

“It helps build morale within the city, not only with residents but with city staff,” said City Manager Ken Larking. “Everyone likes to feel like what they’re doing is contributing to the betterment of their community. When we get recognized for all the effort, it’s always appreciated.”

In addition, the city includes the recognition in its marketing materials when recruiting businesses to come to the area, he said.

Also, “we use it when we are talking to credit-rating agencies. We make sure they’re aware we’ve been finalists or have been awarded,” Larking added.

The designation can also be attractive for someone considering moving to Danville or starting a business here, he said.

“When they’re thinking about a community, where they might want to live or to visit or open a business, the city getting this kind of recognition helps us share the story of why Danville is a great place to call home,” Larking said.

For the third time, Danville has been named an All-America City.

The city was among 20 finalists for the honor and 10 that ended up winning the award. Winners were announced following a competition June 9 in Denver, Colorado.

“With a steadfast commitment to holistic community building, Danville shines through its initiatives fostering student engagement, nurturing police-resident partnerships and enriching its parks for everyone’s delight,” the All-America City Awards organization wrote on Facebook.

The National Civic League bestows the award upon communities that demonstrate innovative, inclusive and effective efforts to tackle critical challenges.

In Virginia, Roanoke and Newport News also were named All-America Cities.

In its application, Danville highlighted its community-based, grassroots efforts to develop a new comprehensive plan — PLAN Danville. It also touted the police department’s nearly 40 community engagement programs, the parks and recreation department’s “Heart The Park” campaign and the Danville School Board’s engagement of youths by adding four student representatives to the board.

Danville also earned a social media award by the organization.

A delegation from the city traveled to Denver for the event. Danville was previously named an All-America City in 1977 and 2020.

Amanda Paez, assistant to the city manager in Danville, led the project to seek the designation and agreed with Larking on the award’s benefits for the city.

“Being an All-America City can help with recruitment and retention of businesses and residents,” Paez said. “If our business community can thrive, there will be a stronger tax base and more stability. It can also open doors to more grant opportunities to further successful projects or pilot new initiatives.”

The award also shows that what Danville is doing is working and can be a model for other communities, she added.

“Being an All-America City shows that our community is willing to tackle the tough challenges,” Paez said. “It also shows that the government, businesses and other organizations can collaborate to solve problems to a mutually beneficial end. Ultimately, it highlights a positive quality of life where each person can contribute.”

To enhance the city’s prospects for gaining the recognition again in the future, “we will continue to place innovation at the forefront of what we do,” Paez said.

“The theme for the award changes yearly, so it is up to us to keep striving for positive change,” she said. “It is important for all staff to look for ways to improve their provision of services and keep up with industry best practices while still leaving room to approach issues creatively.”