Leadership 101

Published 11:11 pm Sunday, February 23, 2014

To the editor:

Commissioner Mike Gage is justifying the economic development proposal, including consultant fees of $21,000 for Mr. [Robert] Williamson, on the premise that more jobs will be created in Polk County, a county with an unemployment rate of less than 5 percent.

He has cited a shortage of volunteers in the county as being indicative that unemployment is a major problem, and that this expensive and duplicative economic development program should be undertaken. If only life were so simple.

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There are approximately 30 advisory committees/boards in Polk County government, and these committees are staffed with approximately 10 volunteers each.

There are at least 11 volunteers on the economic development and tourism commission, the organization that should have been consulted by the commissioners before hiring Williamson. Then there are other similar business development boards populated by highly qualified and generous volunteers.

Our county almost runs on volunteers from organizations such as Foothills Humane Society and FENCE to health and care facilities such as St. Luke’s and the Hospice of the Carolinas.

The Republican commissioners seem to have forgotten that many volunteers representing every township authored the Vision 20/20 plan. Many volunteers from across the county also forged the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

It had support from all commissioners including Republicans. Then, after all of that work (years) and expense, the UDO was essentially killed by the current Republican commissioners’ action or inaction.

It should be understood that volunteerism is incentivized by official appreciation of volunteer activities, and by the reward and satisfaction of seeing the fruits of those labors put to good use. That is simply Leadership 101.

So, now our Republican commissioners are initiating economic development activities, which are duplicative of the role of existing county boards of volunteers.

They are citing what they perceive to be the waning of volunteerism as an indicator that unemployment is the problem. Yet, they have not even sought the advice and counsel of these volunteers whose credentials for this activity are at least as good as Williamson’s credentials for the job at hand.

One has to wonder why Mr. Williamson didn’t volunteer his skills to one of these boards.

If volunteerism is considered to be a problem then Gage needs to look inward.


– David Maxwell, Columbus