The thing about Durham, Carolina, as if there is only one thing about Durham, is it's best to drop your expectations at the city line. They'll only weigh you down. The people, places, history and collective jene sais quoi will defy any and every expectation you have. Whether that's a good, bad or different experience is entirely up to you.
Another thing about the Bull City, again there are many things about this city, is that being intelligent, insightful, compassionate and talented doesn't make you special. This city is bursting with potential in every direction.
In any other city you wouldn't expect to find a heartfelt interview from the President and CEO of their Chamber of Commerce. Welcome to Durham where compassion and insight are integral to your success in any position. Durham Chamber President and CEO Geoff Durham share what makes the city sharing his name stand out and if he's related to Bartlett Durham, for whom the city is named after.
Tell us about yourself in relation to Durham, North Carolina.
My entire life I have known there was a place called Durham in North Carolina. My grandparents would pick me up antique tobacco advertisements from flea markets and I would occasionally sport a Bulls t-shirt or baseball cap. My dad even passed down some of the same memorabilia bestowed upon him in his youth.
Simply, it’s cool to see your name in a stylized font and adorned with various artistic expressions. To me, Durham was just a name on a map and had nothing to do with the place that is now my home.
After having spent 40 years in the Washington DC area, I found myself pursuing a career move to Durham. While the similarity between my name and destination seemed a novel concept, I headed to the Bull City along with a dose of skepticism about the possible relocation.
I have often heard that Durham either grabs a hold of you or it does not; and if it does, the attachment can be eternal. On my very first visit, I experienced the allure of Durham and I felt a connection almost immediately. Quickly I came to learn what no amount of research could ever show - the pride of the Durham community. The history behind the warehouses and buildings, the public spaces and natural settings are all amazing, but it is the diversity of people who animate these spaces that makes the community special.
I’ve been here for 5 years now and I still like seeing “Durham” on shirts, caps, stickers and signs, that part doesn’t get old.
Today, however, the meaning is different; Durham represents us instead of me.
Have you discovered any connection between your family and Bartlett Durham for which the city is named?
No connection, it is a shame because it would make for a more interesting story if such were the case. I have joked that I had to change my name just to escape the gridlock of the DC area. Honestly though, it is a pretty cool coincidence and I have accepted that as long as I keep meeting people for the first time, the similarity will be brought up.
What stands out to you the most about Durham?
The compassion and honesty of the community. My family and I have felt welcome since our first visit 5 years ago. The neighborhood where we live, the schools where our daughters learn and the downtown community where I work, have all offered the warmest of welcomes, encouragement and support. There is a genuine and authentic way about Durham and it starts with those who call this place their home. I am grateful to be included and proud to be neighbors.
In a city whose story has always been one of constant change and is currently undergoing rapid change, what changes would you like to see for the city of Durham?
Improvement in both physical and social mobility within the community is critical as Durham continues to grow and the regional economy delivers new and expanding job opportunities.
From the physical mobility aspect, there are environmental and productivity benefits in providing transportation solutions and enhanced labor market accessibility.
Also of significant importance, social mobility represents equitable opportunity for current and future generations. In order for Durham to retain its identity and culture during times of change, it is imperative the community is provided the necessary education and training to take advantage of the growing number of employment opportunities.
2-3 years from now you've got "The Bulls of Durham" sitting on your coffee table and have someone staying with you whose never been to Durham before. They open up to your page, as it is bookmarked with a super-cute bull bookmark, and your words become their first introduction to the city. What is the ONE things you want them to know about Durham right off the bat?
That Durham thrives because it is built on the pillars of diversity, collaboration, inclusivity and innovation. It is those four guiding principles that created Durham, that has led to Durham’s renaissance and that will ultimately guide Durham into the future.
Which bull in the city is your favorite?
I’ve always been partial to the bull that sort of peers down at passersby from the bridge at Chapel Hill Road along the abandoned Belt Line rail in Downtown Durham. There is a sturdiness to his stance and he appears to be shepherding pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles as they head through the underpass. We always seem to lock eyes each night on my way home from work, it’s reassuring.
Discover the perspectives of over 100 interviewees and dive into Durham's rich history with your own signed, first edition copy of "The Bulls of Durham." Book is slated to launch April 10th, 2019, Durham's 150th anniversary.
The Bulls of Durham 1st Edition Pre-Order
Signed, first print copy of "The Bulls of Durham" living history book. Projected book launch is April 10th, 2019, Durham's 150th Anniversary. Your book will be paired with a BULL bookmark made out of North Carolina wood.
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The Bulls of Durham Official Bourbon Tumblers
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