Pushing for change: Lisa Chalian-Rock is Darlington’s champion
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Lisa Chalian-Rock’s work title is long and her job multifaceted. Among her tasks are helping grow, maintain and revitalize businesses in the city of Darlington.
Rock holds the dual roles of executive director of Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association and director of planning and economic development.
After 12 years in print media, Rock started her career over in 2013 as director of planning and economic development. She added DDRA a year later. And because she was in the media, she handles the dissemination of public information for everything in the city, except at the Darlington Police Department, she said.
Rock said she chose the career change because she wanted the ability to make something happen, to make change, not just write about it.
Rock recalled one incident in which people began to take notice of her. She said it was an election night and the city council was meeting. She said the council not only held a meeting but also voted in favor of a hospitality tax. She said she agreed with the tax but told the council members they should not have voted on it that night. And by the way, they no longer hold council meetings on election nights, she said.
“I think that was when they started noticing me,” she said.
Her years in the media have given her a good insight into the positives and negative of her adoptive home.
Rock said one way she is trying to change the perceived negative images is through the city’s website, Facebook presence and a new DDRA website, which give out news alerts.
She said there are plenty of challenges in the job. She said some people tend to focus only on the negatives, and maybe that is the biggest challenge of all.
She is excited about several changes that have occurred on her watch. She said the city hired a beautification person in the summer, and now there is someone to take care of the things people complain about, such as keeping the entry signs beautified.
The city recently erected two new entrance signs, she said.
In bringing businesses to Darlington, Rock said, she has to be able to look ahead, to know what businesses want and how to combat the negatives they bring up. She says it is sometimes a challenge to find people to invest.
She said you get a certain “feel” living in a small town, and some people get that right away while others don’t.
“It is hard to say which part of the job I like the best,” she said.
One thing is for sure. Rock is committed to bringing new people, businesses and ideas to Darlington. She said there are things in the works and that it is so hard to sit on them and wait.
Rock is a native of Alabama, but her parents moved to Florence when she was in high school. She is a graduate of Francis Marion University with degrees in graphic design and painting with a minor in creative writing.
She said she doesn’t have much time to paint anymore, especially since she took up a new hobby of bass fishing.
She said at first she just liked being out in nature with her fisher friends looking at it from an artistic nature. Then she tried it.
“I was hooked,” she said. “I go fishing every weekend.”
“I’ve got six fishing rods,” she said. And she has even invested in a bass boat.
Laughing, she said, “I haven’t caught one yet.”
“But I caught an eight-pound catfish,” she quickly added.
She said there is more action than she thought it would be in fishing. She tried hunting, too, but said it is boring.
Rock loves animals, especially dogs, and has had as many as eight dogs and two cats.
“I didn’t just have eight dogs; I had eight big dogs, 80-pounders, who eat a giant bag of dog food a week,” Rock said.
She said she made a rule when she moved into her house to only have one animal per person living in the house. She now has two dogs. Her mother lives with her now. She has a brother living in Alabama.