Where are they now? Former N & P editor staying busy with City of Darlington

City of Darlington planning director and DDRA director Lisa Chalian-Rock juggling some of her many job-related hats.			Photo by Samantha Lyles

City of Darlington planning director and DDRA director Lisa Chalian-Rock juggling some of her many job-related hats. Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

When former News and Press editor Lisa Chalian-Rock departed the newspaper biz for a job with local government a few years back, she might have thought her work schedule would actually slow down a little. But that didn’t happen. As City of Darlington planning director and Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association director, Lisa now wears so many hats she could almost set up shop as a milliner… if she had the time.

Among her many responsibilities, she updates and maintains the City of Darlington website and social media for both the city and DDRA, serves as secretary and/or staff coordinator for several city boards and commissions (ranging from the Planning Commission to the Tree Board), runs the Build Up Darlington business loan program (which still has $25,000 available – apply now!), serves as Public Information Officer for most city departments (except police), and coordinates numerous tourism related events.

All these duties are far afield from her original career path: she initially set out to become an artist. Born in Alabama to a Lebanese immigrant father and New Jersey native mother, Lisa moved with her family to Florence while still in high school. She attended Francis Marion University and studied painting, graphic design, and creative writing. While in her senior year, she took a position with the Florence Morning News and wound up researching lots of local government issues for sidebars and information graphics.

“Think maps and page layouts. Lots and lots and lots of maps,” she says. “And lots of unemployment numbers. I can even tell you when they changed how they calculated the unemployment figures. Working in a newsroom, you hear a lot of stories about how government works.”

And how, sometimes, it fails to work. Yet Chalian-Rock wasn’t discouraged by what she learned; in fact, her interest was piqued. She stuck with the news business and (briefly) edited The Messenger, and then moved on to become editor of the News and Press. Covering government issues over several years convinced her that even when the press follows local problems with great care, in many situations little can be done to remedy those problems from the outside.

“At a small regional paper, it’s hard to make change happen. The best thing I probably did was getting Burger King to pay their hospitality taxes by printing receipts on the front page,” she says with a rueful laugh. “You can observe what’s going on, but you can’t actually change it.”

When the position as City of Darlington planning director opened up, Chalian-Rock saw an opportunity to step off the observation deck and get into the mix, to try and help improve her community by working within the system. She admits that even though publishing a newspaper was sometimes hectic, her current slate of activities and responsibilities keeps her busier than ever.
As planner, the job has required her to do unusual things, like walking around counting rotten trees for a removal program, or charting all of the trip hazards on city sidewalks for eventual spot repairs.

Chief among her tourism related activities for DDRA is the Taste of Darlington, scheduled for Thursday, April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Darlington Raceway garage area. Lisa coordinates sponsorships, grillers, table hosts, and ticket sales for this fun dining tradition.

She’s also gearing up for DDRA’s annual golf tournament, set for April 13 (with a 1 p.m. shotgun start) at the Darlington Country Club, an April 16 Clean Up Day in Darlington (sponsored by the city and Kalmia Garden Study Club) going from 8 a.m. until 12 noon, and she coordinates the Market on Darlington Square events that run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. every first Saturday in May, June, August, September, and October.

Oh, and she’s working with local shops to cultivate a “Shop Small” program during the holidays to drive local dollars to Darlington businesses, and staging special Christmas markets where shoppers can find unique items from artisan vendors.

On top of all this, Lisa is the point person that citizens and media contact when they have a question about local government. Luckily, she is as well-informed as ever, and possessed of a positive attitude that makes the daily grind of government work seem like a worthwhile endeavor.
For information on any of these upcoming events, or to register a group of volunteers to help out with a civic project, call Lisa Rock at 843-398-4000 x103. Visit the City of Darlington website: www.darlingtonsconline.com

Author: Jana Pye

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