Nyreke Peters has an unusual assignment.

Peters, 23, is a Lead for North Carolina Fellow who has been working with Edgecombe County government since August and his job assignment from County Manager Eric Evans was to establish a community voice program.

Never mind that there was no plan, nor was there anyone working on a plan.

“I kinda started with a blank page,” he said with a broad smile on his face.

As it turns out, that broad smile is a trademark of his, as is his easy-going demeanor and his ability to adapt and succeed.

What Peters learned about his assignment is that Evans wanted him to develop a mechanism for community input and involvement to make county government more transparent to residents.

Officially, the definition of Community Voice is an “initiative to improve our existing channels of communication with our citizens, while creating new opportunities for engagement.”

“I was given bones that I had to find a way to put me on,” he said.

In the seven months since he started, Peters has been working on developing a program.

“My time here, I’ve been building a framework for things to continue,” he said, “building a portfolio to leave behind.”

Peters has developed some material for that portfolio of his.

Early on, he shared a video he produced at a meeting of the board of commissioners about COVID-19’s impact and the need to get vaccinated. The data included was from Edgecombe County.

That was the start.

One element of the Community Voice initiative has been the county’s first Citizen’s Academy, which is currently underway with 12 participants.

“We’ve had a great response from both participants and presenters,” he said.

Held in the county’s Carmon Auditorium, participants hear from a variety of presenters — from Evans to Edgecombe Community College President Greg McLeod.

“The leaders are in front of the group and there is open dialogue,” he said. “Both participants and presenters are learning from these sessions.”

Peters noted that the Citizens Academy covered uncharted territory as it was the first, and he started with what he called “a blank page.”

While he said he’s pleased with the way the academy has started, he said, “I would definitely call it a success if they (the county) held it again after I was gone.”

Peters, who graduated from Hobbton High School in Sampson County before going off to college at Middlebury (Vt.) College, where he graduated in May 2021, took his assignment seriously.

To gain more feedback from residents, he developed what the county calls a “Citizen Feedback Form” — a tool located under both the “Residents” and “How Do I?” tabs on the county website where people have the opportunity to leave candid feedback about county operations.

Peters said completed forms go to the respective department head and to Evans. He also gets a copy for statistical purposes.

“If they leave contact information, they will receive feedback,” he said.

Peters also has created a podcast that can be located on the county’s YouTube page that is called “Let’s Talk Edgecombe” while another YouTube feature is a session called “Day in the Life,” where viewers follow a county employee — Evans, for example — through their respective workday.

“It’s been challenging and enjoyable,” Peters said, as he enters his final 90 days on the job. “It has been extremely hard to get the word out.”

One thing he did want to do was to hold a public forum, where people could gather as a group and talk about issues — with the discussion moving from topic to topic.

COVID-19 derailed that effort.

“We talked about holding it on a virtual platform, such as Zoom, but those platforms really don’t lend themselves to open discussion,” he said. “The question became ‘How do you bring people together without bringing them together?’” he said.

Along the way, Peters found ways to reach out to the community to allow for input and to spread county information.

“I feel good about what we’ve done,” he said. “I’ll know it was successful if it continues.”

To learn more about Community Voice, call 252-641-1635 or visit sites.google.com/view/edgecombevoice or follow on Facebook and YouTube at @EdgecombeCountyNC.