By Laura Oblinger
A “return to normalcy” is a phrase woven into the country’s lexicon almost 100 years ago, when a nation torn by World War I yearned for steadiness and consistency after years of neither.
The context is far different in the Traverse City area a century later – but the slogan still fits. Some normalcy would certainly benefit the region today as it transitions to a new generation of local administrative leaders in a community that needs to re-stock some stability, consensus and foresight that slipped out the revolving door of the past few years.
Many of our community’s municipalities and institutions are organized and/or legally chartered to function by administrative oversight. Our elected and appointed officials are important, to be sure, and the region is fortunate to have so many of its residents willing to step up and serve in these positions.
But these are mostly part-time roles with responsibilities etched out in days long gone by. Meanwhile there’s a growing and ever-changing community here to operate. Traverse City shifted to a city manager form of government generations ago, when still a relatively small town. The city of today has evolved immensely – it certainly needs its top administrator to be more than a bit player at its commission meetings.
Hopefully the city found a steady, strong hand in its new city manager, who brings a solid history of experience working in local government within Michigan. From the chamber’s view, we’re encouraged by his positive working relationship with the business sector in his former home. Communities that grow and thrive the best have effective connections with their business constituencies. We have room to grow in this area.
Our civic leaders play an important role in all this as well. It’s their job to find and guide these administrators, establish clear and concise directives and ensure they’re carried out. The Chamber offers a number of programs for those interested in civic leadership, and will offer a seminar on July 14 specifically for residents who want to learn more about running for local public office. You can get more information from Chamber Government Relations Director Kent Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city’s not alone. Grand Traverse County also faces a leadership transition after months of uncertainty. Other local institutions have recently changed the guard, or face the prospect in the not-too-distant future. In all these critical areas, it’s paramount that our oversight boards seek out the best talent, give direction and – most importantly – listen to them and let them do their jobs.
Fortunately our region has strong administrative leadership in its genetics – individuals who helped shape the community and its institutions for success over the long haul. For them, “normalcy” wasn’t just getting through the day or making sure to follow the routine. It meant viewing challenges as opportunities, balancing short-term results with long-term implications and building solid consensus with thorough community dialogue.
We need that kind of leadership to be a community where excellence is the expectation that becomes the standard – a normalcy that pays dividends for everyone.
Laura Oblinger is the Executive Director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact her by email at email@example.com