02PubPenWe need leadership that will encourage and convince local community agencies to tear down their silos and start working for the betterment of all. To this end, city and county leaders need to lead by example.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that actions speak louder than words. Put another way, don’t believe what you hear, but depend on what you see. This simple philosophy has helped me survive many pitfalls when navigating through my business and personal life. And, I assure you that it applies to nearly all worldly situations.

Fayetteville’s newly elected mayor, Mitch Colvin, addressed business, church and community leaders at a gathering titled “One Fayetteville.” Here, he reiterated his campaign promise to bring Fayetteville together using diversity as leverage to solicit cooperation and collaboration within the community. This is a good thing. The words Colvin spoke, combined with his intentions, are no doubt honorable and sincere. However, the reality of bringing everyone together for the betterment of the community may be a little more daunting. Why? Because actions always speak louder than words, and Fayetteville and Cumberland County residents are getting weary of hearing how well our city and county are getting along when it is not so.

The perfect example of this, and a missed opportunity for a show of unity, came at the “One Fayetteville” gathering. The event was at City Hall with many notable community leaders in attendance, including representatives from Cumberland County Schools, Fort Bragg and the church and business community. The county of Cumberland was also represented by its newly elected board chairman, Commissioner Larry Lancaster, and yet he did not address the audience. Why? You would think that at a unity-themed event, there could be no better demonstration of unity than one between the city of Fayetteville and the county of Cumberland.

Didn’t Lancaster have anything to say? Was he not invited to speak? At this point, it doesn’t make any difference. It was an opportunity lost and a conspicuous oversight for those sincerely seeking unity. The event had approximately 150 people in attendance when twice that number would have been more appropriate. Again, actions speak louder than words.

Another example of missed opportunity is the recent controversy about which entity will manage the proposed combined 911 center. Both city and county officials claim to be working hard and looking out for the best interest of tax-paying residents, yet when the health and welfare of everyone is literally at stake, neither party is willing to concede its silo of power.

Worse yet, they are sticking to their guns even if it means losing millions of dollars in state funding. Enough promises. Stop the meaningless talk. Many observers think this will be the year both the city and county taxpayers pay close attention to what is being done – not said – to move the community forward. With $80 million -$100 million of economic development and opportunity sprouting up downtown, it will be much easier to measure who comes forth with the plans and initiatives to move Fayetteville and Cumberland County forward both socially and economically.

Our community seems to have an overabundance of “philosopher kings.” They are readily available with “expert” opinions analyzing our problems, but they rarely offer viable solutions. Honestly, our community doesn’t need any more of these self-proclaimed local experts or overpriced out-of-town consultants telling us what our problems are. I think we have a pretty good handle on those.

We need vision, leadership and effective solutions to make positive things happen in Fayetteville and Cumberland County. We need leadership that will encourage and convince local community agencies to tear down their silos and start working for the betterment of all. To this end, city and county leaders need to lead by example. Otherwise, there is no incentive for others to invest in or buy into any initiative of cooperation for future growth.

Both the city and county need to get away from the “What’s in it for me” mentality and start thinking about “What’s in it for us – all of us.” When this happens, amazing things will take shape in our community. Everything will improve. Our community will grow in population. Poverty and crime will decrease. Employment opportunities will increase – as will our economic outlook and quality of life.

There would be no downside to this kind of communication and cooperation. For instance, the Rotary Christmas Parade could become the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Rotary Christmas parade. With this combined participation, perhaps we could have 30,000 in attendance rather than 3,000. Veteran’s Day could be celebrated countywide with a Veteran’s Day Parade twice as big and respectfully honored by a full reviewing stand of local dignitaries rather than an empty one. In 2019, on opening day of our new baseball team at our yet-to-be-named $33 million stadium, perhaps both city and county officials could throw out the first pitch.

No doubt about it, 2018 is going to be a year of change. At this point, we know everyone can talk the talk. Now, let’s see who will walk the walk.

Remember, trust your eyes, not your ears. And let’s SEE where the new leadership will take us. Unity, less talk and more action – our local trifecta for success.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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