4CEO/President Nat Robertson of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce hosted last week's annual State of the Community luncheon at the Crown Coliseum Complex. This was the first major event hosted by the Chamber since he took the leadership helm several months ago.

With several hundred local business owners and elected officials in attendance from the city, county, and State, this event sold out twice, making it one of the biggest and most significant Chamber-sponsored events in its 124-year history. The audience included Fayetteville city, Cumberland County, state officials, business leaders, and public school administrators.

MC'd by the quick-witted Chairman of the Chamber board, Gary Rogers introduced the lineup of distinguished speakers that brought the audience up to date on the status and health of the community: the local Real Estate industry presented by Melissa McKinney, president of Longleaf Pine Realtors' board of directors, City of Fayetteville by Mayor Mitch Colvin, Cumberland County by Commissioner Toni Stewart, Cumberland County Education by Dr. Marvin Connelly, on local healthcare Daniel Weatherly, CEO of Cape Fear Valley Health, updated everyone on the progress and expansion and future of health care in Cumberland County.

However, to the Chamber's credit, they saved the best for last. Guest speaker Josh Dobson, the North Carolina Department of Labor Commissioner, concluded the program by talking stern "truth to power". It was unexpected, refreshing, and the first time I had ever seen or heard an elected official use a public speaking platform to admit that government, public service, and politics are all trending in a wrong and dangerous direction. I have written about this several times over the years, comparing our current political climate, policies, and procedures with that reminiscent of Dell comic's Bizarro World, where everything is the opposite of its intended nature. i.e. Good is bad, Bad is good, etc.. Dodson sees nothing productive coming from partisan and divisive politics. He references the term "normal" to describe what the political processes were traditionally when he first engaged in politics and what they ought to be, then stated, "….what used to be normal is not normal anymore." After his first term as Labor Commissioner, he will be out of politics because of this divisiveness and growing political abnormality. But really, will he be out of politics altogether? Personally, I doubt it. He walks and talks like a man with courage, conviction, and intestinal fortitude. We'll see what the future holds. His message resonated and surprised many of the audience members, ending the program on an extremely high note.

Our Fayetteville Chamber is apolitical. However, first and foremost, they are an "Advocacy for Businesses". Dobson is correct; reversing political divisiveness, locally, state, and nationwide, is imperative to having and maintaining a prosperous economy and a healthy and happy "State of the Community."

Again, I congratulate Nat Robertson, the Chamber Staff, and their Ambassador volunteers for executing such a worthwhile and value-added event. We are proud to represent them in our community newspaper, for which we thank you for reading!

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