In a previous column entitled “Successful Small Towns”, I listed the 11 common factors held by towns eluding the negative growth megatrends, noted by researcher James Fallows during his 55,000 mile travels around the USA. One of those factors listed is “Local Patriots”. Who are those leaders who keep the town moving toward progress? Who are the straws that seem to stir every drink?
In the last 20 years, we have seen American leadership gradually transition from the “Greatest Generation”, to the “Silent Generation, to “Baby Boomers”, and now to Gens X, Y, and Z. In many cases, this transition has not been smooth. All these generations tend to view the world and our country much differently, and sometimes the gens have devolved into competing camps and conflicts.
We have seen these types of lively battles in various communities in Bourbon County, playing out in commission rooms and conferences rooms everywhere. Many of us have witnessed loud encounters between commissioners with diverse priorities, critical citizens, organization board members and trustees charged with the public trust. Uncomfortable. Discouraging. It gives us a feeling that our communities are not doing very well.
I disagree. We have so much going for us! I believe that Bourbon County and our towns are on the verge of a leadership surge that will pave our way to progress. We have a unique opportunity to create a common vision of success, bringing together the list of generations, including past, present and future leaders to set aside personal agendas in favor of the common good. We need the wisdom of age and the energy of youth to unite behind the investments that will make our communities better. We need to start trusting each other again.
How do we bring this to reality? First, civic leaders of the past have to come out of retirement. We need you! Current leaders need to expand their vision to be more inclusive, and more young people need to take the personal risk to get involved in setting goals for our communities.
It is human nature to battle for scarce resources when the population drops and assets dwindle. We become fearful and retreat into “every person for themselves” mindsets. When we invest our time, talent and treasure toward the common good, instead of our own narrow interests, it is risky and we become vulnerable. These are risks Local Patriots are willing to take.
Step forward. Invest your resources. Suggest, LISTEN, and seek understanding. Drop your grudges. Don’t assume. Don’t yell! Pursue the common good. I believe we can create a plan for our communities to resist the megatrends that are impacting virtually every small town in America, and make BB a more attractive place to live and work.
I leave you with a quote from the One who I consider the greatest Teacher who ever lived: “…let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” I encourage you to serve our communities with the resources you have.