David Parrish, 40, City Manager
Growing up in Greensboro, David Parrish hardly imagined he would wind up the top public servant.
But here he is, the city manager of the third largest city in North Carolina. The man in the corner office at the Melvin Municipal Office Building.
“I behave the way I would want people to behave. I want to make connections with both the staff and the community,” David says.
David went to UNC Greensboro to study therapeutic recreation. It was a path that seemed natural. As a kid, his pastor father encouraged volunteerism and service. “I remember when I was younger, every Saturday, my Father took my Brother and I to the park. Every week we went to a different park in Greensboro and that played a big impact in my life,” David says.
Volunteering and service was just what you did. Mowing the church lawn. Visiting elderly homes. Assisting the disabled.
His first job out of college was working as for The ARC of Greensboro, helping adults with disabilities find a place in the workforce.
Later he moved to Well·Spring, where he worked as recreation director for the retirement community. It was the career he wanted.
“I already had been volunteering when I was in high school and college with older adults. I had a real connection with individuals with disabilities and older adults. Both were where my passion was,” he says. “I had no intention of doing anything different.”
But an unexpected nudge sent him down another path.
One day he was reading to one of the residents, Mrs. Watson.
“She said, ‘What are you going to do with your life?” he recalled. “I went, ‘What do you mean Mrs. Watson?’ She said, ‘You could be so much more.’”
David went back to school to get a master’s of public administration at UNC Chapel Hill, thinking he might go into nonprofit or healthcare management. Instead, he became intrigued with the municipal government.
“I guess I found in it a calling,” David said. “My father being a pastor, we had to do service-oriented stuff….over time it just became ingrained. You are here to be a servant. You are here to serve.”
He parlayed that gig into a position as town manager for Yanceyville, the Caswell County town with about 2,500 residents. It was a tough gig.
“It was a challenge. Being a small town manager is hard,” he says. “You have to be everything. I was the utility director. I ran a domestic violence shelter. I took the mail to the post office.”
He later became deputy city manager of Danville. Six years ago, he came back home to Greensboro for a job in the manager’s office.
In May, a unanimous City Council tapped him to be city manager.
He’s still working out all his plans for the city. But he’s excited about the impact he will be able to make on this city where he grew up, where he and his wife Heather are now raising their daughter and twin sons.
“What I’d like to see us be is that community of choice. When I had the opportunity to come back six years ago I chose to come back because it was a great place. You hear people looking around for retirement or for a job. I want them to choose Greensboro for all that we do. Within our organization, we have to create the foundation from the core so then the community can go and thrive.”
He wants the City services – from roads to water to emergency response – to be so solid that residents don’t have to think about them.
“As long as people know we got this and we are going to do our best to provide a professional expert level quality of care, you can go and do whatever you are going to do, whether it be to teach the kids of the future generation, or run a business or run large corporation.”