He's not exactly a budding thespian, but graduate student Maxwell Vandervliet, of Manhattan, a student of urban and regional planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, acts the part of reporter and poet in the latest episode of Save Our Towns.
First he travels to the tiny West Virginia town of Bramwell, which pounced on the opportunity to locate a prominent trailhead less than a mile from downtown. To the credit of Mayor Louise Stoker, Bramwell has become a prominent part of the nationally known Hatfield-McCoy Trails.
Once a pocket of the largest number of millionaires per capita in America, Bramwell has suffered like other towns in Appalachia fighting for its economic survival. Now, ATV riders are filling restaurants and spurring construction of lodging.
Later in the episode, during the Maxwell's Number segment, Vandervliet makes like Shakespeare to make a point about Devils Fork and its picturesque waterfall. Don't miss his rhyming couplets.
In Cleveland, the Southwest Virginia town being followed for a year, demolition work has finally been completed on some old buildings – meeting the approval of almost everyone in town.
Save Our Towns, created and produced by Outreach and International Affairs, is a series of monthly video episodes designed for mayors in small-town Appalachian Virginia and other leaders who are working to improve the economic life of their communities.
The first episode of 2017 also includes an expert tip from T. Allan Comp, formerly with the U.S. Department of Interior, who advises mayors to pay attention "to the rebels in your town" because they are the source of new energy and a counterweight to "good old boy" patterns of the past.
Save Our Towns also features the Faces of Agriculture project of Virginia Cooperative Extension in a social media and video project in Wythe County that shows the vital role of people who work in the field.
Upcoming episodes will explore a risk taken by the mayor and City Council in Lexington, Virginia, and touch on the impact of drones on the educational life of Southwest Virginia.