Safest City in the Nation, Cary Matters with Carissa Johnson, and Debra Grannan’s Retirement

Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships Meeting

Monday morning I met briefly with a board member for the Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships. We mostly discussed issues related to this year’s tournament.

Interview with Capital Analytics

Monday afternoon I was interviewed virtually by individuals representing Capital Analytics. Questions were on the topics of milestones and highlights during the past year, health of the business community, sustainability and resilience, infrastructure and mobility, and general quality of life. Our interview lasted about thirty minutes.

Cary Matters with Carissa Johnson

Later Monday afternoon I taped an episode of Cary Matters with our newest council member Carissa Johnson. The episode was a Q&A to get to know Carissa better. Here are some excerpts from the questions and answers about Carissa:


I was raised in the Finger Lakes region in western NY in a blended family and I had 5 siblings and 2 sets of loving and dedicated parents. I have been in North Carolina since 1996 and in Cary for 22 years. I am a 15-year downtown Cary resident, where I raised my smart and kind daughter Bella, who is now a college sophomore. I work in technical product marketing in the IT channel, and I work remotely for a Colorado-based data backup and disaster recovery company called Axcient. 


I joined the Information Services Advisory Board in 2017. It was there that I learned about Cary 101, which was at the time called Cary School of Government. I completed that in 2019, along with my daughter who was at the time a high school junior. In late 2018, I was appointed the Cary150 Task Force as vice chair to work on our 2021 sesquicentennial celebrations. And in 2020 I completed the Cary Community Emergency Response Team, or Cary CERT, basic training and some additional online FEMA courses, also with my daughter Bella.

Being a council member:

I look forward to learning more and working with stakeholders on addressing housing affordability challenges. I also plan to advocate for environmental protections and the adoption of renewable energy such as solar. Plus, I know our Council and Staff has been working hard towards inclusive municipal policy. And I am excited to work to further those efforts.

Guardian Ad Litem Passion

As a Guardian ad Litem, I am an advocate appointed by a judge to work on behalf of a child or children who has been removed from their home because of abuse or neglect. In my courtroom, there is a third table, where I sit along with the assigned Guardian ad Litem attorney, to represent the wishes and best interests of the child.

It is my job to do my own separate investigation with the sole purpose of representing the best interests of the child. We report our findings and recommendations directly to the judge, which is a big responsibility but there is excellent training and support. This is my passion project because I believe that every single child has the right to dignity in childhood, and that requires a safe and nurturing environment to grow in. When adults are not able to be that safe harbor for their kids, we must step in and do whatever we can to try to make things better. It is the most challenging and important thing I do or have ever done, and if anyone watching is interested in knowing more, I am very happy to share my experience.  The need is so great.

It was great to learn more about Carissa and I am excited about the possibilities she brings to the council. The taping included three full takes and a few extra takes on certain parts. We were finished in about half an hour.

Town Manager One-On-One

My last meeting Monday was with the town manager. It was a brief meeting which mostly centered on the Cary Tennis Park and the Atlantic Tire Championship.

Independent Weekly Photo Shoot

On Wednesday I did a photo shoot for the Independent Weekly. They are doing a story on the Cary Tennis Park and wanted photos of me at the tennis center. The photos were taken in various parts of the center, and we were done in about fifteen minutes.

Debra Grannan Retirement Reception

Wednesday afternoon I attended a retirement reception for 31-year town employee Debra Grannan. She held nine different positions during her time with the town. Her last position was as Associate Planning Director where she interacted a great deal with the council. She is a fantastic lady, and I was blessed to get to know her and work with her. My understanding is that she will now focus her interests on some of her passions like the Cary Players. BTW she, and the Cary Players, will be performing the play “Clue” at the Cary Arts Center in late September and early October. For tickets visit

Safest City in the Nation

Thursday I was notified that Cary was ranked #1 safest city in America. The ranking was from GoodHire, a company that checks backgrounds using FBI crime data. The analysis weighted crimes against persons and property at 40% and crimes against society at 20%. The safest cities received lowest scores with the dangerous cities receiving higher scores up to 100. Cary received a score of 1.2 compared to #2 McKinney, Texas who received a score of 4.2.

Cary is proud to have the #1 safest city ranking. But it is important to understand that safest city does not mean crime free. We must all do our part to keep our community safe. Recently there have been car break-ins with most of those being crimes of opportunity. That is, the cars were unlocked with valuables inside. Some even had the keys in them. So lock your car, store your valuables, and if you have house alarms please use them.

Town Manager’s Report

The Town Manager’s report for this week included:

Shelley’s Message

I’m happy to share a few highlights from a busy and productive week. 

  • This week, the new owners of South Hills invited staff to join them in a design visioning workshop. It was great that they chose Principal Planner Allen Davis to lead this event.
  • Wednesday, Associate Planning Director Debra Grannan retired from the Town after more than 30 years. Staff and community members gathered to celebrate Debra and her long and impactful career. We look forward to officially recognizing her at the September 8 Council meeting.
  • Walker Street has reopened as The Walker Apartments (AKA One Walker) completes the construction of the new 153-unit apartment building. The final stage for Walker Street will include resurfacing the street from Fairview Road to Waldo Street as part of the Downtown Park project in early summer 2023. The Walker will start welcoming their first tenants this week with 15 residents scheduled to move in during the month of September. The management team has coordinated staggered move-in times as to not affect overall traffic on Walker Street or Walnut Street. The retail spaces on the first level are still under construction and will open at a later date. The streetscapes along the frontages will also be completed as part of the final construction.

Best wishes for a safe and fun Labor Day weekend!.

Upcoming Closures

  • Page Walker Arts & History is closed September 1 – September 5 for scheduled maintenance.
  • Town Hall and most staffed facilities will be closed Monday September 5 in observance of Labor Day.

Cary Senior Center will be closed September 8 – September 16 to repave the parking lot. 

Lazy Daze 2022

The 46th annual Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival operated at full scale for the first time since 2019 to welcome thousands of patrons and vendors back to Downtown Cary for its annual end of the summer tradition. Council Member Jennifer Robinson provided remarks for the festival’s opening ceremonies and was joined by Council Members Don Frantz, Ya Liu, and Carissa Kohn-Johnson. Festival Founder Jerry Miller participated in the opening ceremonies and presented six artists with the best in show awards. Over 250 volunteer shifts were filled, and the Cary Teen Council sold a record number of bottles of water to raise $4,480. A cross-departmental team served in Unified Command off-site at Fire Station 9, led by Chief Andy Hiscock and Lt. Stephen Matthews, providing support to the operations team on the ground at Town Hall.

Bond Park Deck

The Bond Park Boathouse Deck replacement was completed this week. The previous wooden deck had been in place for over 12 years. A new composite deck has now replaced the aging boards revitalizing the area. Impact to services was minimal during the construction, with public boat rentals and launches continuing throughout the project. The boathouse will be open Labor Day weekend Saturday – Monday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

NCDOT’s Draft State Transportation Improvement Plan

North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released an update to the draft State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) for review and comment. This plan identifies the construction funding and schedules for projects over a 10-year period from 2024-2033. The North Carolina State budget includes an updated sales tax revenue forecast that allows a percentage of the money to be used for transportation projects. For the full draft STIP, timeline for approval, and more information on how it was developed, go to NCDOT’s STIP webpage.

2021-2022 Annual Wastewater Report

Cary’s 2021/2022 Annual Wastewater Report is now available and provides quick facts, descriptions of our treatment facilities, system metrics, and tips to keep the system working smoothly and the environment free from sewer spills. In addition, new to the report this year is a graphic about sewer laterals, which details how homes are connected to the wastewater system. We are happy to once again show that our water reclamation facilities had another year of exceptional performance, and our wastewater system is among the top performing utilities in the state.

CDL Training

On February 7, 2022, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) launched new Federal Standards for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Ensuring we meet the new standards; our Public Works team developed new training requirements and created a curriculum for new staff members requiring a CDL to perform their daily tasks. Cary is the first in the area to register four new employees on the FMCSA online database whom all obtained their CDL. This internal training is the first of its kind for a local government in North Carolina and ensures Cary will remain sustainable and resilient to carry on numerous operations that require CDL licensing.

Adopt-A-Spot Appreciation

Since 2011, groups from businesses, schools, scout troops, churches, and families have dedicated their time as volunteers through the Adopt-A-Spot Program. Many groups “retired” their spots during the COVID-19 shutdown, but since relaunching the environmental stewardship program last summer, 24 new locations throughout Cary parks, streets, trails, and neighborhoods have been adopted. With this surge in interest, Cary now has 57 adopted spots that are benefiting from the generous service of Adopt-A-Spot volunteers.

Cary Installs Touchless Toilet Paper Dispensers

Cary is the world’s first municipality to provide BIOtouchless toilet paper dispensers at the Cary Depot. These dispensers are fully enclosed, protecting paper products from airborne pathogens. Based on savings traditionally seen with automatic paper towel dispensers, it is expected to reduce toilet paper consumption by 50% which further supports our focus on sustainability.

Saturday Afternoon Kung Fu Film Series

Two Shaw Brothers films were screened at The Cary – The Five Deadly Venoms and the 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The series was curated by filmmaker Christopher Everett. Over 110 people showed up to view these two classic Kung Fu films. Everett also gave away door prizes to two lucky attendees. The Cary will rescreen these films on September 3.

Upcoming Meetings

Senior Advisory Board
Sept. 7 
2:00 p.m.

Economic Development Committee
Sept. 7
5:15 p.m.

Council Meeting
Sept. 8
6:30 p.m.

Mayor’s Mailbox

  • A request to extend certain greenways
  • Acknowledgement that Cary was safest city in the nation

Next Week

Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a virtual meeting with 3rd graders from Turner Creek, an Economic Development Committee meeting, council portrait pictures, and the first regularly scheduled council meeting of September.

Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 11th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to and email personal comments to

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