02 pub penLast month, I wrote that local leadership comes in many forms. Friday, March 8, more than 100 residents gathered at Cape Fear Botanical Garden to celebrate The Fayetteville Observer’s 40 Under 40 winners. And rightfully so. These select few have achieved benchmarks of success in their personal and business lives, through dedication, hard work and perseverance. That is something worth celebrating. The editorial page of last week’s Fayetteville Observer did, however, double down on my observation and concerns that these same young outstanding individuals are shying away from getting involved in local government. Why the reluctance?

For years, and to its credit, The Fayetteville Observer has done a good job of recognizing potential local talent in a way that is well balanced, politically correct and representative of our diverse population in business, education, the military, the medical field and nonprofit organizations.

These extraordinary young people have made their mark and are now contributing to the personality and fabric of our community — except when it comes to leadership. As the newspaper reiterated, it does not bode well for the future of our community when many of our young, intelligent achievers remain on the sidelines of local leadership.

Except for Tisha Waddell, District 2 Fayetteville city councilwoman, they seem to avoid public service as elected officials. 

Are we doing enough to engage these ambitious young professionals? Are we encouraging them to get involved politically? And, are we setting the right example for them?

Many think not. And, the subject matter alone has many people and organizations who traditionally have been responsible for nurturing local leaders on the defensive, refusing to acknowledge this void that could hinder our future growth and development.

To their credit, organizations like the Greater Fayetteville Chamber have for years offered leadership and development programs like Leadership Fayetteville, the ambassador program and the Fayetteville Young Professionals networking group, which are all explicitly designed to familiarize the next generation with community, business, government and civic responsibility.

Cumberland County the town of Hope Mills and the city of Fayetteville all have initiated leadership academies designed to demonstrate how our local government operates and to familiarize residents with the myriad leadership opportunities designed to motivate and groom young talent for business, industry and public service.

It is encouraging to see civic organizations like Cumberland County Kiwanis Clubs stepping up and embracing young people, providing leadership and direction. They cultivate pride, responsibility and values and offer community engagement and life lessons that pay big dividends.

So, while many are content with the status quo of our community — and others refuse to take responsibility for leadership development while witnessing the dumbing down of standards and events — we must realize this is no way to prepare for a prosperous future.

Again, at the risk of being redundant, millennials are the future of our community. We need to make it our highest priority to get them involved, engaged and excited about the future right here at home. They are the future of the community.

We have done an excellent job identifying these potential future leaders. Let’s continue to advocate for and support the effective programs and organizations that encourage these young people to step up into leadership positions.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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