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January 2009 Archives

January 5, 2009

Natchez Democrat -- Leading the Conversation

Kudos to the team of writers at the Natchez Democrat for a recent series of articles related to our First Impressions visit in their community last summer. In my view, the paper used the "power of the pen" to lead a conversation that all communities need to have from time to time. The last article pointing to the need for planning is essential. Even in my hometown of Columbus, we need more strategic and consistent efforts in comprehensive planning for growth and development. Kevin Cooper is correct, what works is simple. A good action plan with good leadership works. Good leadership is always the key. Yet, in my mind, we simply don't have enough strong leaders in government. In the absence of strong, visionary leadership, I would argue that a good action plan is even more important. Give a person who has good intentions, a love for their town, but who may lack strong leadership qualities -- a good plan to follow and most of the time, results are achievable. However, with no plan and limited leadership, rarely does anything positive happen.

A second important feature of quality community development that stood out from the articles is the power of the single individual to have an impact. The gentleman picking up trash and the shop owner making a difference downtown. There are dozens of individuals in Natchez and every community doing their small part for their hometown. Don't get hung up on who is doing what and for what reason. Just be thankful for each individual, unique contribution and encourage more. Government can't and shouldn't do it all. We are all responsible for our communities. We can all do our part to pick up trash that we didn't leave and help solve a neighborhood problem on the other side of town. Because while that trash may not have been dropped on the street by me, now that it is on the street, it does belong to MY community and is now my problem. Be an responsible individual who has a positive impact on where you live. Encourage more responsibility without whining about others who lack responsibility. Just do what you can. It does matter.

Conversations such as the one sparked by the First Impressions visit in Natchez and now highlighted by the Natchez Democrat signal to me that Natchez is a town poised for positive growth and development. KUDOS and keep it up in Natchez. The articles can be found online and these links are in chronological order...


January 16, 2009

Ackerman's City Park Full of Potential

I enjoyed visiting with folks in Ackerman on Tuesday evening during their First Impressions presentation. Several good things are happening downtown with new landscaping and other improvements. The Red Hills EcoPlex is certainly worth bragging about too.

As a community development practitioner, I stress the importance of capitalizing and building on community assets when attempting to reach consensus around an issue that needs addressing. Unfortunately, a city park that is a "diamond in the rough" so to speak is certainly underutilized. Vandals have caused the restrooms to be boarded up, chained, and locked. Even garbage cans are not immune to damage. Litter bugs have an easy excuse to leave garbage scattered across the grounds with no garbage cans available. A gate even limits assessibility to some areas.

With tennis courts, basketball courts, a pavillion, a GREAT outdoor amphitheater, and other amenities, this is a real asset to the citizens of the town. I hope the leadership and residents will rally around this park and realize the tremendous asset it really is.

January 28, 2009

ARC Appalachian Community Leadership Program

On January 20th, I was invited to attend a workshop at Waverly Waters in West Point that demonstrates clearly the power individuals have within their communities to improve the quality of life in their hometowns. The ARC, Appalachian Regional Commission, sponsored this program that began a year ago. The idea is to get small teams of individuals together and help them become 'spark plugs' for community development. A year ago, these folks gathered together from all over northeast Mississippi. They shared ideas, learned strategies for getting community involvement, and wrote a project proposal. Then, ARC funded 16 of these projects with seed money of $3000. Well, over the year, these folks, most of whom are volunteers took that $3000 and leveraged it in their hometowns and made some great things happen. For example, in Louisville, they improved their soccer complex and doubled the number of kids in the soccer program. In Water Valley, they used the money to clean-up and beautify a well traveled 'backstreet'. Sherman put sidewalks in places where there were none and Houston turned a vacant downtown lot into a beautiful park with help from master gardners. Wow. I was impressed. The power of volunteerism and their ability to leverage a very small amount of money and make wonderful improvements in their town. The most inspiring part of the day was listening to the folks discuss the roadblocks they encountered and how they overcame the challenges.

When people care and step-up, things happen. Congrats to these towns as well as Caledonia, Booneville, Plantersville, Macon, Amory, Aberdeen, Blue Mountain, Okolona, and West Point who also participated in the program. And, a special thanks to ARC for programs like this. We appreciate the efforts of ARC to help communities help themselves. This works. !!

Leadership Noxubee

Tuesday, in Macon, our team was invited to participate in the kick-off meeting for the 2009 class of Leadership Noxubee. What a great gathering of folks. The group is diverse and clearly interested in developing leadership skills that can help them improve their community. The program is sponsored by the Noxubee Alliance with support from MSU Extension, Rachel Carter and Al Myles. Dr. Vaughn Grisham was the guest speaker and he lived up to his reputation. It was the first time for me to hear him speak about community development. His major theme centered on improving education. Perhaps the most important thing he said was -- Local People Must Solve Local Problems. The more we travel around the state, the more we learn this is so true. No matter how much money floats down to a community from Jackson or Washington, it takes local people, assuming local responsibility for their own quality of life before any of the money matters.

Keep it up Leadership Noxubee. Become Local People Solving Local Problems. !!

About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Dawg Tracks in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.