I am I said….

Who was I to be? Do you ever ask yourself that question? Do you ever wonder, did I follow the right path or did I miss my calling? I did, for the longest time. Why though? Did I really feel like I had missed the mark in the very decisions of life? I have learned those questions derived from self doubt. Sometimes even from a place harkening to the alleged limitless potential that I never thought I quite lived up to. What did I accomplish? Didn’t matter, because it wasn’t everything I could have done. I was totally convinced.

It seemed as if I worked hard to remind myself that I didn’t do enough. I wasn’t enough. In a world of suffering and anguish, I did not do enough to help. I didn’t meet the standard. Therefore, I failed and no matter what I did from that moment forward, I would never achieve the satisfaction of knowing I lived this life well and to the fullest extent. Trapped in my own delusional prison of limitation. No past could be remedied and no present could be void of the past.

Makes you wonder, where did this pattern of thought come from? How could someone who got up everyday trying to make difference, feel so worthless about what they had done. I had a hunch that perhaps all the naysayers and doubters I encountered, had more of an impression on me then I thought.

People I respected, familiar faces, the occasional crush, or just the mean people who thought different was bad and therefore I was weird. They all said things, repetitiously, and convincingly. Unfortunately, I wore my feelings on my sleeves, making me an easy target, until one day I didn’t. I stopped hearing the insults, but I wasn’t able to hear the compliments that came later either.

Now don’t get all sentimental for me. I was no different than anyone else. We are all subject to these things. I consider myself lucky, as I saw much worse with others. So why then, did it mean a so much? Simple, I allowed doubt in and by allowing it to, doubt grew inside me. Like many growing things, self doubt, became a giant monster of an obstacle in my life. To breathe, I needed constant grading and reassurance. I had to see major success to accept a small amount of reprieve. I would have happily died trying to be better, trying to be something others could be proud of.

If anything I have written here even remotely strikes a chord, then do me a favor, and read this next statement very carefully. It was all bull shit. No one in our time has led the societal perfect life. No one has cured all ills by the measure of nirvana. No one rode the horse of righteous perfection down the straight and narrow road to sainthood. It took a lot to convince me, including a self torturous number of years, but I finally saw that it was all a facade.

In a world where individuals can thrive, and differences can yield beauty, I was always good enough and so are you. I was exactly where I was meant to be, in each and every step, good or bad. Those who said otherwise were equally as tortured and also less than perfect. I controlled my path and I get to determine how well I walked it. The only thing that ever held me back, was believing that I wasn’t good enough. I saw the beauty in everything accept myself, which means I was blind.

It’s time we all opened our eyes, opened our ears and taste the sweetness of accepting our value. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t believe that you didn’t do enough or you didn’t choose the right path. Your path, gave you scars, it made you cry and bleed, but it also gave you joy and perspective. Your path made you who you are, and made many others value who you are. You impacted others and you left a mark.

Here’s to us! A life well lived, and life worth cherishing. You’re being who you are meant to be. You define who you are and if you decide to change the definition, well that’s totally your decision. Go be who you are and don’t let anyone make you doubt it.

A Lesson Learned in Communication

Despite my many years of public service and heavy involvement with communications, I find myself in a constant state of evolution that never seems to cease. New platforms and new levels of engagement constantly keep me guessing. One thing has not changed though, we must continue to try and communicate with each other, no matter how hard it may be.

When I was a kid, I remember a very impactful encounter I had while on vacation.  I often roamed, and got lost, and this day was no exception.  In particular I ended up in a store, scared and confused as I did not know how to reconnect with my mother and older brother.  Bouncing from aisle to aisle, I met a young lady who approached me with kind eyes and a beautiful smile.  Her approach immediately calmed my anxiety, but she used no audible words. Instead, she began to use sign language. I recognized it was sign language but felt inadequate as I did not know the signs. I wanted so badly to know and converse. Her patience with me was inspirational.  Just as it seemed we were beginning to have a level of understanding, my mother showed up.  I did not want to leave.  I pleaded with my mother to stay so I could have more time with this wonderful person.  Time was not on my side though and I left without ever knowing her name or how to reconnect.  I cried as we left, hoping that I had not disappointed my new friend too much by not knowing sign language.

Later that year I decided I would find ways to learn signs in hopes of one day finding my friend again, in a Hallmark Christmas Movie fashion. How relieved we both would be that we had a common method for communicating with one another. Unfortunately, the day never came, memories faded, and I lost much of what I had learned.

Fast forward many years, and I was working in the park system. One late afternoon, I was in our park office and received two patrons.  I welcomed them in and asked what I could do to assist.  They gestured for a piece of paper and a pen.  I quickly provided it to them and eagerly awaited the response. They let me know that they would be utilizing written instruction unless I was fluent in sign language.  Ashamed, I hung my head and responded in writing that I could not sign, but would gladly assist. As they left after completing their business that day, I recalled my earlier childhood experience and decided I must rededicate myself to learning sign language once again.  

I waited a whole year for an opportunity to communicate through sign language in my professional life.  As luck would have it, the same patrons came back to reserve a shelter. I was so excited to share what I had worked on.  The smiles I was met with were worth more than a whole year’s salary! They praised me for what I had learned and then I shared with them the inspiration they had lit inside of me.  Just as they were about to leave they provided me with some signs that I just did not know, so I signed, “I do not understand.” Looking at one another and then at me, they made a sign slapping an “L’ against their upper chests. I shook my head again, indicating I didn’t understand that sign either. Shamefully I handed over a paper and pen. The response was, “lazy is the sign and keep learning, is what you need to do,” to which they both laughed a little.

My lessons learned in both those experiences could have been very different.  I knew that I needed to work harder to find a way to communicate in a way that was desirable and respectful to the other person.  It would have been easy to get frustrated and give up. 

Barriers to communication today can exist in many forms.  We don’t all speak the same language.  Sometimes, we speak the same language but don’t interpret the same way.  Sometimes, we are so distant in our positions that communication seems impossible.  Sometimes, we expect the worst in response and so we fear communicating at all. 

Should we give up when it is hard to communicate?  Should we just quit communicating?  You would be surprised at how many people respond yes.  Or, maybe you wouldn’t. I truly fear where we may land if we give up on trying to find ways to communicate with one another.  It was okay for me to feel like I hadn’t communicated in the best manner. It was okay for me to need to try and improve my communication.  The worst outcome would have been that I gave up. The satisfaction of connection and working together, far outweighed the effort in overcoming obstacles.

History is ripe with tough communication amongst people.  Nothing significant has been accomplished without trying. It seems like my lesson learned is one that now, more than ever, stays true to what I must endure to keep communicating. I hope you will join me.

If you go 100 mph all the time, what do you see?

Ever travel at an accelerated rate of speed? Of course you have. You’re in a hurry. You’ve got places to be. Deadlines to meet or things to get done. Only so many hours in a day right? Ever drive past something that you wanted to see, but went by it so fast, you only catch a blur or fraction of the view? Imagine seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, but going so fast that you barely saw the base of the structure. Disappointing at best I would imagine.

Moving fast isn’t limited to travel though. We rush through work, activities, experiences, and ultimately life. Everyone is guilty of it on occasion, myself included. Many of us understand the benefits of what we gain when we go fast. Perhaps we complete multiple tasks. We get an intended result faster or we just get a much deserved sense of accomplishment. Moving fast isn’t a bad thing necessarily. There is, as always, a time and place for everything though.

Hopefully we can make informed decisions when we evaluate going fast. Understanding the value we lose when we go fast should be just as commonplace. Culturally, we have lost some of this understanding in large part, due to quick access to almost all services and functions. Order a package and get it tomorrow. Look at the news in a matter of seconds. Download your music or games by the time you finish folding your laundry. FaceTime your friends face to face and visit without ever having to get on a plane or hop in the car. Those are all wonderful advantages that allow us to overcome multiple barriers. Not a bad thing at all. I have dedicated my whole life to figuring out how to overcome barriers, so I am ecstatic about what speeds up or creates better access.

In contrast, I have also come to appreciate the unintended consequences of going fast as well. What are we missing? What are we not seeing or experiencing? Often something more meaningful in my opinion. If you are like me, you have been busy for years trying to cram accomplishments into a condensed period of time. Driven by a desire to do the most good and produce the most outcomes, many of us will drive fast through life with a fear of no promises for tomorrow.

If two people are walking a trail, one intends to get to the end as quickly as possible so that they can finish and the other takes time to stop along the way but takes much longer to finish, who gets the most benefit? Who saw the hawk in the tree? Who saw the crocuses blooming? Who sees a quartz formation? Granted, the slower person didn’t finish first and can’t say they lay claim to fastest walk on a trail. For some, that may be equally as valuable.

The value proposition is very different though. A claim to finishing faster will likely be one of many simple accomplishments that in quantity may hold some meaning, but will fade fast as a memory. In contrast, a story about the hawk, flowers and quartz formation could mean something that lasts much longer. Beyond a visual impression, you’ve experienced the earth’s offerings, peaked a curiosity or knowledge and discovered special moments that come far too seldom.

Both experiences can fulfill. I simply propose that going fast doesn’t allow for an experience, which for some, could be a very meaningful memory or produces additional benefits. By knowing that, you can decide what has more value for you, but just remember, you can’t see as much, when you go 100 mph.

This isn’t as simple as a trail walk though. On a grander scale, maybe in life, we take a little longer for vacation so we can see more. Maybe we stay an extra hour during a social visit to have a more meaningful conversation. Maybe we spend an extra day planning for a project so that we give due consideration.

As I watch our society enjoy the offering of quicker benefits, I fear a forgotten understanding of value in experience. Particularly as the generations that follow become more reliant. It is for this reason that I have chosen to take some time on occasion to experience life at a different pace, that allows sight of what is around me. Maybe it is time for some of us to set an example for those who have seen us live at a quicker pace, always pursuing quantity as opposed to quality.

Society has little tolerance for taking more time.  Our culture doesn’t always accommodate our desire for pace.  We are part of society though and we help craft culture. Taking the opportunity to lessen the pace and enjoying more of the experience doesn’t have to be every time or with every facet of life, but where we can, it is worth trying.  Going 100 mph can often end in a crash without reaching your destination.  Going slower, with more awareness can result in reaching the destination safely and with the benefit of remembering the journey.


An Unexpected Path

It started when I was five years old. By “it” I mean my determination for equity in quality of life and more specifically in community service. My mom was constantly searching for free things my brother and I could do.  She remembered that, prior to my father’s departure, his employment allowed us to go to a country club in Greensboro.  The facility had tons of recreational options that would allow us to play on our own terms.  At the time we had no real income outside of good will and government subsidy, so my mother thought this would be a pleasant surprise. My brother’s mobility was limited as he had just been upgraded from a wheelchair to leg braces that he would have to learn how to use for some years to come.  We loaded up into the beige station wagon with the cool lay-down seat in the back end. Then, we headed into the city, watching the road in reverse as if we were leaving all our troubles behind.

When we got to the entrance of the facility, we were filled with excitement. I loved seeing the joy on my brother’s face upon our arrival. He had often endured the ignorance of small minded people who had less aptitude for seeing the beauty within others who may seem or look different than themselves. Even my mother’s face filled with delight knowing she would succeed in taking us away from all the small town gossip and rumors that surrounded my family, even if for just a day.  We didn’t mirror the expectation of normalcy in our community. We were so different that I often thought everyone else was strange instead.  Seeing the happiness on her face made me feel like she had forgotten the daily challenge of how to provide food or shield us from the awful truths that surrounded us. She had dealt with an abusive, alcoholic, former spouse and my other siblings who had fallen prey to the temptations of the world for so long. It was nothing short of a miracle that she still wanted to get up in the morning, much less make sure we had some type of fun.

I loved playing of any kind. My father had been a local, star athlete and I often thought if I could match his success I would get the attention I wanted from him. Being outdoors was my sanity. I ran away to the woods almost every day. The wildlife I encountered were my best friends and they never betrayed me. Our destination that day would offer all of this and so much more. This place was a childhood Shangri-La if ever there was one.  It was to be our day!  Nothing could interfere with the happiness that would find its way to the fraction of what was left of our family.

Pulling into a parking space with this much anticipation always felt like a bad slow-motion sequence from a movie.  As I peeked out the window I could see the top of the clubhouse.  I admired it as if it was the entrance to see the Wizard of Oz.  Once we got inside, the Wizard would take all our troubles away and all our future paths would be yellow brick roads. I saw the faces of people coming in and out, and everyone was happy.  For a brief moment my anxiety rose, fearing they would detect or smell our lack of culture, financial stability or normalcy that was needed to blend in. Then I remembered that nothing bad ever happens in this happy place. My mother opened the back door. Freedom!!! No matter what pace my brother moved at, I always chose to move at the same. I was so proud to be his brother that I never wanted anyone to mistake that we weren’t related. We walked in sync following our mother to the front door of the clubhouse.

Mom ran up ahead of us to be greeted by someone staffing the entrance.  Oddly the exchange looked less than happy. No happy faces, just a look of disgust and then a look of shame on my mother’s face.  She walked back over to both of us tearfully and broke the bad news. “We aren’t members here anymore,” she said with a whisper. I didn’t understand.  What in the world was a member, and why did I need to be one to play?  Why did my brother need a membership?  Had he not paid his dues in so many other ways? “A membership is what we have to have to play here,” my mother said. “When your father left, he revoked our privileges, along with any hopes of income,” she murmured.  We stood there in astonishment.  Suddenly she gathered herself and with an award winning performance, pepped up and said with as much energy as she could muster, “but I negotiated the opportunity for you all to play in the front yard.  I brought a ball with us and you all can throw it back and forth.”  We did just that.

That day would be defining one for all of us.  My mother became very assertive and creative, hoping to avoid what would end up being many more like situations for us over the years come.  My brother developed a wicked sense of humor with a strong desire to be financially successful. As for me, well that took awhile to work itself out. At the very least I recognized that we could always make the best of every situation. The way I felt that day and many other days to come, really didn’t bother me half as much as the way I felt when I saw their faces, or how I felt when I thought how much it must have hurt them to not even have the simple right to play on the terms that we wanted. Through the eyes of a child we often have an innate sense of right and wrong, and in this case it just felt wrong. In my later youth, my behavior declined. I became aggressive, introverted and, dare I say, vengeful toward all those who I thought had influence or money. You know the story. Mine isn’t isolated.

Many years later, while attending college, I took a job with the local parks and recreation department. I worked in athletics and the role I had was eventually contracted out to a commercial operator.  For three whole months I worked in the private sector and gritted my teeth behind the smile of serving individuals who treated me as if they needed to wipe me off their shoes after every encounter.  I called my old boss in parks and recreation and asked for anything they had to get back to serving in a more intrinsically fulfilling fashion. She laughed and said, “How are you with a cash register?” I responded, “I am a quick study.” What she said next though moved my stomach to the lower part of my knees and even as I write this still makes me feel that way.  She asked me if I was familiar with the old country club. I whispered back an unenthusiastic yes. She said, “Well it is a public facility now as a part of the company’s liquidation of assets and we are out here trying to give the public the best of what is left here.”  “I am in,” I finally said after a long period of processing. I was to return to the very facility I was turned away from so many years earlier.

That call and the previous childhood experience marked the start of what became my obsession.  I worked at that facility morning and night, and every day in some capacity. I gave everything I had to make sure we provided the best, most affordable services to everyone who wished to participate.  Over the years we negotiated deals, worked for support, and assembled a like-minded team to provide what eventually became the best park/event center asset in the system in many regards.  When we left we had close to a million visits a year with hundreds of recreational opportunities.  My passion grew to work with many more facilities and services as an eventual director of parks and recreation.  I believed so much in the work we did that I applied to become an assistant city manager where I reside today.  I am still using those experiences from my younger years as guiding principles day in and day out.  Ironically, every position I ever held was not about a promotion or even salary for me.  Instead, it was a larger opportunity to provide what everyone should have access to.  I never charted the path I was on.  I did decide to keep going though, finding that all paths can be a little more“yellow brick” in some fashion for others, and someone has to care enough to make it that way. That’s what public servants do, we epitomize that sentiment. If we do for others, and we do it well, they will rarely know how it all comes together or even what the story is that brought us there. This a small portion of my story.  There are many more impactful stories out there amongst us. Remember your story every day and you will never lose your path, even if it was uncharted.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility


Even Clark Kent and Diana Prince couldn’t be Superman and Wonder Woman, all the time. As a public servant though, is this really okay? Are you expected to be super all the time? If I am being honest, I am, by many who simply expect me to have all answers, have total recall, and be all knowing in many respects. The older I get, the more distant I seem to be from meeting that mark, especially when it comes to the recall, but I really don’t mind the image of being considered “super.”

Why is it that so many expect so much from their public servants? My two cents: we are to blame. We have created a culture of great expectations. Public servants are quite special. We strive to make the imagery of “super” true. We will work all hours, miss personal milestones, and essentially push ourselves to the brink of insanity to make sure others are supported.

What makes a person go to such lengths to please others? There are a host of reasons. I will focus on the most prominent one. Throughout my time in public service, I have had the fortunate opportunity to forge relationships with many colleagues. Whether it be at the coffee maker or providing greetings at the first day of employee orientation, I find myself thirsting for the answer to one question. Usually accompanied by a welcoming smile, I ask, “What on earth made you decide to sign up for public service?!?” The response is often the same, whether offered quickly or from relenting to my tireless digging for the answer.

First, remember your favorite super hero has to have an origin! All of the good ones do. Origin stories help us understand the very drive of our super hero. Ironically, that origin is often the same humanizing quality a hero possesses as well. The struggle with ones’ “super self” is often all about the very thing that spurred them to dawn the cape. Before I get way too nerdy for my readers, let me offer what this one, common response to my question is and give the true origin for public servants.

It’s empathy! Where many may be born with an understanding, most of us gain it through experience. Allow me to offer that those who have struggles can often be understood better by those who have also struggled. I have heard origin stories that range from abuse to limited access. My own story begins with a feeling of shame and limitation. Of all the super public servants I meet, each has some pivotal moment that spawned a burning desire to support others. It is often in an effort to prevent these enlightening, but oh so humbling experiences from happening to others.

What’s amazing about this empathy is that through public service, we gain the super power, that allows us to create paths, support others and generate circumstance to pave a better offering. We help with employment, transportation, quality of life and safety! At the risk of letting my super status sound a bit narcissistic, we change lives and impact society daily. It’s an intoxicating notion, but a true one. To have such an ability is fairly addictive and not a feeling you wish to relinquish. It drives us to forgo many of our own personal wants to afford opportunities for others.

I am not suggesting we mirror the perception to the point of burnout, but I will say, who can blame us for the never ending pursuit to serve others? We have the gained experience, the ultimate motivation, and a tremendous incentive. Those who are served don’t always show the appreciation we would wish, but even one thanks a month provides the justification that our pursuit is just. In lieu of constant praise we often seek affirmation through expectation. In other words, we love the image of a super hero and even if the constant expectation wasn’t there, we would desire it regardless. The more you want us to be super, the more we want to be.

For those who count on us, remember our origins, and even when we fall short, the desire is there and for good reason. For those of us who serve, remember your origins, and accept that it drives you, but even Clark Kent and Diana Prince couldn’t be Superman and Wonder Woman all the time.

Author: Christian Wilson
Editor: Joshua Wilson
Contributor: Tracy Pegram

It’s the Season for Reflection

You don’t know who I am, you don’t know what I do. You keep staring at me as if I should know you. Are you judging me? Or do you just care? What does it mean, this cold meaning stare? Does your stare mean there is something I must do? Or are you the person that hasn’t a clue. Before you see me, gaze upon you, cause the anger that’s felt a mirror reveals true.

A younger Chris Wilson, wrote this many years ago as a result of the frustration of judgment from others. Tired of the judgment of our socioeconomic status, family make-up and even for non-conformity.

In this season of reflection, I am going to ask you to consider a resolution that can assist with the most basic of human gestures, yet is often almost impossible to achieve. Don’t be quick to judge others. Seems simple right? We know it’s not though. Do you judge the person who just asked you for change? How about the person who waved hello that you don’t even know? The person with a parrot on their shoulder or the person who talked about Marvel Comics for twenty minutes? We are often quick to judge. Sometimes we do it in our thoughts, sometimes with our friends, or sometimes directly. This one simple thought often seems harmless. It isn’t. These judgments are often the beginning of something much larger for you, those around you and the person you judge.

What if we didn’t have this immediate reaction of judgment? What if we could give it just a minute longer to get an impression? Aren’t most good decisions given some time and thought? It has often occurred to me that although we possess five senses, we rarely use them in combination. Using our sight or hearing alone can often lead to misrepresentation. The clothes I have on, the hairstyle I possess, or even the way I walk, says something to many upon first encounter. Yet, almost assuredly, we would not want anyone to do that to us.

Our world is struggling as a result of unfair judgment. Judgment of others often leads to bias, fear, and misunderstanding and ultimately, hate. Now more than ever we need love above hate. This year, in 2019, I am resolving again to stand against hate, to not unjustly judge others and continue to work toward celebrating our differences. To do this, we have to know where hate begins. Let one’s whole character speak to who they are. The spread of hate can not be easily spread if unfair judgment is not part of the equation. To fight hate and unfair judgment we must let love for one another be the driver of impressions.

Before you see me, gaze upon you, cause the anger that’s felt a mirror reveals true.



Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms have changed our public service world. Is it for the better? Are we more informed? Are we more transparent? Are we more connected? Does it help our self-esteem to measure popularity in likes, retweets and shares? Many would answer, yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and many other social media platforms have changed our public service world. Is it for the worse? Are we misinformed by inaccuracy? Are people hiding behind ghost accounts to antagonize others? Are we avoiding real conversations in exchange for distant, electronic, emotional commentary, laced with false bravado? Have we become overly self-important as a result of false popularity? Many would answer, yes.

I would say, perhaps the case is a little of both perspectives. Maybe it is a lot of both. My opinion is irrelevant though. Whether I like it or not, social media is here. It’s all around us, and as long as there are users, there will be platforms. I can complain about it, but that won’t stop someone from incessantly taking selfie photos on Snapchat like a documentary of facial expressions. 

Let’s face it, social media is now the most common and popular form of communication. It’s how you keep up with Aunt Susie. It’s how you idolize your favorite celebrity. It’s how you get your news for goodness sake! Remember the newspaper? Everyone can be a self-designated journalist now if they post the gospel according their own flock of followers. There are whole segments of broadcast media productions that discuss postings of the Great Dane doing yoga stretches. You address your political figures and political figures address you in the virtual congress of social media. 

For those of us that communicate and serve others for a living, this platform can’t be ignored. I have literally gone from years worth of standing in front of groups and discussing their challenges to now posting information and interacting through live feeds and virtual exchanges (both can be the proverbial shark tank situation). 

For many of us, this has been a challenging shift, and at times a frustrating one. Why? Here’s just a few reasons. The response is not always pretty through social media. As a matter of fact it can be down right hateful. If you interact regularly, you are likely to have your very own “troll” who’s total mission in life is to make you miserable. In addition to that, much can get lost in interpretation of electronic exchange. The less factual informers can often win the popular opinion poll as a result of being quicker to post or more dynamic in their presentation. Misinformation can be so detrimental. It can be a threat to public safety. A threat we can’t always predict or stay in front of. This often leaves you with a feeling that you must obsess on social media so that you don’t miss that one critical clue leading you to the next big damaging viral post.

I never have claimed to have a monopoly on wisdom. I will not start with this topic. I do however have an earned perspective which is just this. The social media train is not coming, it is here. You can not stop it. You can not stop it. You can not stop it (cognition through repetition). You can however, manage it. There are some simple steps to managing this labyrinth of social media. Step one, accept it as a platform for communicating your services and connecting with your customer. This platform can connect you in a more powerful way than television or radio. You want to reach your audience. Don’t let the platform dissuade you. Step two, pace yourself. Schedule what you do. Over-sharing becomes part of the constant chatter and gets ignored, so consider your frequency. Don’t be like the person that posts every meal and every trip to the mirror. Give your audience enough to be connected but leave them wanting more. Step three, connect with your audience by providing honest, dependable, consistent, short messaging, that can be fun, but doesn’t have to be over-sensationalized.  Short attention spans demand brief communications. Novels are downloaded, not posted.  In a feed of thousands of messages, you need to stand out visually, so stick a picture or video in there. Messaging that provides accuracy will overshadow false posting in the long run. Step four, accept the negativity and don’t give it traction. Those who troll get more traction when you engage. Serve your audience, not the singular voice that seeks to distract. Ever wonder why they have so much time on their hands? Wait……there it is. Yeah, exactly what you are thinking. Finally, step five. This one is a biggie. Accept that you do not control everything, you deserve a life, and this is one facet of what you do, so keep it in perspective. You will make mistakes. We all do. Correct it, own it, and move on. 

I am fortunate to have many wonderful communications experts in my life who provide great insights. Their success with social media platforms aided in connecting with others and getting information out that provides public safety and quality of life. Everyone can fall prey to some of the pitfalls of social media on occasion though. Stick to the steps folks. We can do this. Frankly, we don’t have a choice.


Leave a Legacy, Be an Exclamation Point!

The reward of public service is intrinsic for many of us. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that fills a space inside your soul. Sounds deep, because it is. The passion has to be one that drives you beyond what most consider reasonable at times. I have been spit at, cussed out, threatened, followed, and targeted. Yet, I get up each day hoping to make a positive difference in someone else’s life.

When attempting to serve the public, you have to understand the issues. Housing, employment, public safety and many topics arise daily as challenges, or as we refer to it in public service, opportunities. Connecting with your community on various levels allows you to hear what it is like to walk in others’ shoes. This understanding prompts efforts. We hear, we see, we feel and then we respond.

The metrics for success in public service are often measured outwardly. How many jobs are filled, how many people attended or took advantage of a service, how much money was saved or how much economic impact was generated.

At this point, it should be apparent that I have a flare for the obvious. What isn’t so apparent though, is why so many of us, knowing all the previously stated things, continue to use the same approaches when we don’t get a better result. Same approach, same results, right? Why not try to approach things like you may not get another chance? Don’t cringe, I am not getting ready to overuse the expression, “out of the box.” The theory behind it is worth consideration though. Different approach, may get different results.

Let me pause here and say I am not insulting you by insinuating you may be using a similar approach to someone else or continue to do something that “has always been done that way.” Often we feel that our approach is up to a higher authority. Sometimes we feel so restricted in our guidelines that is seems impossible to do anything different. Sometimes we lose our passion and getting an average result becomes acceptable.

Have you ever thought about the legacy of what we can do though? I do. The older I get, the more I realize, public service is an extreme responsibility, which allows me to do things that impact lives and leave a legacy that surpasses my life. Sounds exciting? Adding the term legacy to any effort, always draws a higher level of attention. The best of the best begin to perk their ears up, and race to the sound when that word is used. A chance to do something so meaningful that it will last for generations to come.

If I accept that what we do, can create a legacy, then the idea of average results becomes nauseating. To create a legacy, I have to be an exclamation point. Push the boundaries, break the barriers of traditional thought and give the community what they deserve. If you understand the challenges, your solution must match the needs. From where I sit, we have a lot of needs and a lot of opportunities. I hear 100 good ideas a day on how to move forward, but I see 1000’s sitting on the shelf collecting dust because we are afraid to try. Leave a lasting impression, go for broke and create a legacy. Go be an exclamation point!


Photo Credit: Chamreece Diggs



The Parks and Recreation Professional

In honor of Parks and Recreation Month, I would like to highlight something most of us may not think about. Quality of life is a driver in our community. Perhaps if we label parks and recreation as quality of life, we may better understand their value. Public safety, economy, health, and the environment are all impacted by the parks and recreation profession.

So why is it that so many of the people parks and recreation professionals serve have no real sense of what it is they do? Simple. If they do their jobs well, it appears as if things just happen. Parks and Recreation professionals aren’t narcissistic and aren’t necessarily pursuing individualized, ambitious desires. They make things happen for the right reasons and very little self-gain outside of the intrinsic pleasure for serving others.

They just do. They provide quality of life, they spur the economy, they protect the environment, they support, they teach, they promote wellness, they…..well you get the point. I cannot identify many other professions that impact others in so many different ways.

I have heard that sometimes people just don’t see what they do. I have also heard that perhaps they just aren’t as topical as other priorities like public safety or development. I don’t believe any of that. I actually believe it is the opposite. They are perhaps, a little too good at what they do and maybe they are a little too selfless at announcing their value.

Let me explain. When you attend an event that draws 100,000 people, you are there to have fun. Your focus is on the experience, as it should be. When you learn about the indigenous wildlife around you for the first time, in a class, your focus is on the excitement of the live animal in front of you. When you ask that special someone to spend the rest of their life with you as you stand in a beautiful garden or park, your thoughts are on the moment in all its perfect surroundings.

The impacts and details are their job. It is visible, but sometimes you just don’t see it. The millions of dollars parks and recreation professionals bring in through those who traveled to that event and decided to shop, rent a hotel room, and eat at restaurants are the things that occur around your experience. The passion they ignite for environmental stewardship, with one simple environmental class, turns into a flame for those who will carry the torch of preservation tomorrow. One small instance can create a whole movement, but rarely does anyone reflect on the influence that started it. When you step into a garden or park that is maintained through countless hours of meticulous work that often includes blood, sweat and yes, some tears, you see the backdrop for a great experience. How it got that way becomes irrelevant to your cause.

In my career, I have managed construction, finances, human resources, and natural resources. I have repaired, taught, provided lifesaving support, rescued, inspired, sparked initiatives, and enjoyed countless other opportunities to serve. At heart, I was and still am a parks and recreation professional. I am today, by title, an Assistant City Manager. I still employ all the great things I learned as a parks and recreation professional. My passion has not changed, my motivation remains the same. No other career would have allowed me to be ready for the challenges and opportunities I have faced in this role. The City Manager of my community has a parks and recreation background. Many of the community leaders around me tell stories of their love for parks or the job they once had at an amusement park or community center. The influence is everywhere. Like so many things though, the experience doesn’t always translate into the overall impact.

The irony is parks and recreation professionals wear the lack of recognition like a badge of honor. Our impact is the long game. We seek to provide equality in quality of life. We wish to serve and support. Being under the radar allows us to do that free of pitfalls that become those constantly seeking recognition. Our schedule is to work when others do not. Our pride is to elevate others ahead of ourselves. Our joy is your smile. Our reward is your success.

When we do the job well, you get to enjoy without worrying about the details and that is the ultimate thank you. July is Parks and Recreation month. If you want to thank your parks and recreation professionals, go out and enjoy what they produce. After all, that’s why they do it.