Unity by Gregg Motley

Gregg Motley. President of the Regional Economic Development, Inc. Submitted photo.


On several occasions, I have referenced an Atlantic Monthly article written by James Fallows, in which he describes his 54,000-mile journey around America in 2016 to see what makes some small towns successful. His summary included 11 striking similarities to these communities that are bucking the national trends. At least eight of these 11 characteristics rely on one concept: unity. It is reasonable to conclude that it is highly improbable that a rural community could succeed without a high level of this highly perishable commodity.

As I pondered this reality, I remembered my first days in Bourbon County nearly 7 years ago. As one makes new acquaintances and friends, one also learns about old enemies and the grudges that exist in most small communities. I have been involved in several efforts to improve our county, only to be slowed or completely derailed by a wall of ill-will caused by old wounds and past sins, disheartening to say the least.

Not to represent myself as an innocent bystander in this dynamic; I have made my share of mistakes and have hurt and offended people in this community that I love. Sometimes, my approaches to repair damage I have done have been met with grace and forgiveness; other times, I have been shunned, another community grudge has taken root, and trust is eroded.

The most critical area in which unity is necessary relates to the cost of local government, which is tied to our high tax rates and low property values. We can no longer afford the overhead of so many local governments providing identical services in close proximity to one another. We have to swallow our collective pride, reconcile with our neighbors, and seek ways to work together on our mutual problems.

In my mind, the best way to begin is to draw from all areas of our county to write a strategic plan for the future success of Bourbon County. An entity or small group of people that most of us trust must lead this effort and get it done; then, we need to implement the plan together.

The research by Mr. Fallows supports but one conclusion: A small community cannot succeed without unity. Decide today what you can do to repair rifts, build bridges, and help reestablish the mutual spirit we need to move our county ahead. We cannot afford to write anyone off as if we don’t need them; we need everyone. After all, that is the very definition of unity.

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