Forget Dale? Not Kannapolis

From Bob Misenheimer, mayor of the City of Kannapolis:

I couldn't agree more with the Charlotte Observer (“Wasn't Earnhardt rough around the edges, too?”, published July 29). Who can ever forget the pass in the grass? I was there and saw it. Pushing Dale Earnhardt and our rich history aside is crazy, and so is the notion that Kannapolis would even consider doing so.

Of course Kannapolis is in a period of incredible economic transformation. However, City Council has labored to strike the right balance between what we were, what we are now and where we are going in the future. This is a difficult task, with competing interests and viewpoints all offering compelling opinions.

The short answer? We are still figuring out how to strike the correct balance. The exciting answer? What a fantastic challenge to face as a community.

Earlier this year, during our annual retreat, the Kannapolis City Council outlined its vision and priorities to 2015. One main priority we all agree on was to “find ways to embrace and preserve Kannapolis' incredibly unique history.”

Underneath this larger goal, we outlined four key areas to explore:

Support the efforts of the Kannapolis History Associates.

Support the exploration of a tribute to the Cannon family.

Develop a plan for historic preservation of targeted mill village neighborhoods.

Enhance and preserve Veterans Park or support an alternative recognition to our community's veterans.

For those of you who follow local government, the word “support” usually means to provide funds. To that end, in the budget that we passed in June, we have included $25,000 for continued enhancement of the Dale Earnhardt Plaza downtown. There is another $400,000 to improve and restore Veterans Park in Kannapolis, which sits on the edge of the N.C. Research Campus. Earlier this month, we sponsored the Cannon Mill reunion night with our minor league baseball team, the Kannapolis Intimidators, and we have been having exciting discussions with the Cabarrus Visitors Bureau about their plans for an enhanced Dale Trail or some other Dale Earnhardt-related tourist experience.

Changing from one industry to a diverse economy does not mean that Kannapolis officials are rushing to whitewash our proud, hard-working past. I am extremely proud of my aunt, uncle, cousins and daughters who worked in the mill, and I can assure you that the city is not actively working to hide our strong heritage. To the contrary, we are finding new ways to embrace it, including publishing a comprehensive history book of Kannapolis (expected to be completed by the end of this year) and creating a Diversity and Newcomers Citizens Commission that will help bridge our history and future.

The real insult to Dale Earnhardt is the suggestion that the removal of some banners can somehow tarnish his legacy. The only flags Dale cared about were checkered. No one can ever take those away, and no one will ever take Dale from Kannapolis.