As my term as president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities comes to an end, the uncertain times that we live in remind me of why I sought to become involved in municipal government, and then, why I chose to become involved in this organization.
It starts with frustration.
You see something in your community that frustrates you, that you want to make better. Then you chart a path to making it better. And that path can lead you to local elected office.
Add in some caring, stir in some desire, fold in a little knowledge, and spend a little time observing, and you can work with others to accomplish great things.
Right now—and seen throughout this special issue of Southern City— all of our communities have great challenges before them addressing both the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis. It is frustrating to see our restaurants, our hotels and many of our retail stores economically sidelined by the need to keep people safe. It is frustrating to know that the progress seen in so many of our towns and cities – seen in vibrant downtowns and the economic activity that they have sparked – is threatened by this spread of this virus.
Borne of that frustration, though, will be innovative leadership. It may take time, but I have no doubt that my fellow local elected officials will find ways to help their communities survive and then thrive, in spite of these great challenges.
And, of course, the League will be right there, as it has been, assisting cities and towns on this path. It will be there to advocate for the resources that each member municipality requires during this time of crisis. It will be there to connect each with ideas on how to move forward. And it will be there with services that help move our citizens forward.
Over this time as president of your League of Municipalities, I have enjoyed the opportunity to continue to see organization programs grow and thrive. We have implemented more robust member education through the Advancing Municipal Leaders program. We have more membership service offerings. Our grassroots advocacy efforts have matured to help the League become a modern, nimble organization able to quickly respond on any policy front and make municipal priorities understood and considered.
I am proud of how we have responded to member needs, making grants available to municipal employees during a time of disaster. And now, facing this COVID-19 crisis, connecting members to needed resources. It should come as no surprise that this work has continued at such a high level even as staff has had to work from home. It has been wonderful as League president to be able to connect with those staff members and my fellow elected officials.
The best thing about being in this position has been the friendship and respect of my fellow board members, and the faith that they invested in me to lead this organization. They are a tribute to their towns and cities, like everyone who serves in their respective offices across this great state. You truly are a class act.
Those relationships will continue, but I want to thank all of you, as well as my predecessors in this position, from whom I learned so much – Al King, Ronnie Wall, Lestine Hutchens, Bob Matheny and Michael Lazzara.
It has been a great pleasure and great honor.