By Don McPherson
So you have successfully run for office and have won election to lead us. It is a common thread that goes through so many newly elected officials’ minds when they think to themselves, “I’ve got four years to prove myself.” I will submit to you that you have started off on the wrong foot. This community is going to ask you from day one, “What have you done lately?” We are not going to be dazzled by your efforts, rather we want to be gratified by your results. And, I will submit to you that the differences between effort and results are vast.
We are not going to want to hear from you those tricky little catchphrases that have become so vogue. A perfect example would be “management by walking around.” (That phrase was coined decades ago by a friend of mine, the late Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, and utilized with great success.) Talking about such things is one thing, and doing them is another. I would submit to a newly elected councilman that as your schedule permits, and hopefully with regularity, you make it a point to visit many of our veteran merchants and a lot of the newer ones as well.
When you arrive, and after they have picked themselves off of the floor having swooned in a dead faint and then dusted themselves off, you might find that they have something to say, good, bad or indifferent, and that you might learn something. To the rest of the council, I would simply say that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Our former Mayor and longtime Councilman, Kirk Stapp, did a grand job of getting about town regularly. Not because he said so, but because people like me saw him do so. To that end, I swear that somewhere in the bowels of the council sanctum sanctorum, back room chambers, there is a plaque or banner somewhere that states, “There is no known life above Main Street and Minaret,” referring of course to The Village. I cannot recall, except for a few mea culpa calls, when I saw a councilperson there last. I am there most every day for one reason or another and they are distinct in their absence.
The single most important thing that you must be aware of as a councilman is our safety. In the case of a true emergency in our town, you might just discover that the Mayor, the Town Manager, and the Chief of Police are out of town. It has happened before and it will happen again. That is life and you pick up the phone with shaking hands to determine if Mammoth Lakes is running on autopilot, or not, and that possibly the next hand to grab the tiller will be yours.
Let’s assume that you get lucky and one of your peers is already two hours ahead of you and already making decisions and issuing instructions and orders to the proper people. Good for him or her and good for you for getting involved, for that is what you signed up to do! I would rather have a bus driver and an alternate bus driver, than no bus driver at all.
IN AN EMERGENCY, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DECISIVE LEADER AND A POLITICIAN IS MEASURED IN INCREMENTS OF TIME … time saved if you are the former and time dithered away, never to be regained, if you are the latter. Time is precious when lives and the well being of our town are at stake. We, the citizens of this town, are going to want to know what side of the coin your face is minted on regarding the above, and we do not want to find out the hard way. If you are truly not up to what I have just described, then I would suggest you not quit your day job.
So, time has passed and you have proven to be just what we were looking for. It never ceases to amaze me how and where a stamp of accreditation for town leadership can come from. More than likely, it comes from conversations in all of the standard meeting places that we frequent such as coffee shops, the market, or hiking, fishing and skiing. Believe me, those are the places where comments made are the ones that count.
Your reputation has been earned. You are a leader. You have gained our respect! So finally, I can guarantee you at the very least three things are about to happen:
1. The bullseye that was painted on you back from day one as a town councilman will diminish in size. You have held sway with your peers and things are getting done.
2. As is human nature, now that you have become successful in the eyes of many, you are about to experience a cadre of the town citizenry, in small groups at first, and even one by one by one, falling in line beside you, recognizing you, encouraging you and supporting you. Those three words are catnip to a true leader at any level, as they bolster your resolv and enhance your self-confidence to carry on.
3. I absolutely guarantee that you, whoever you are, are about to experience a reversal of roles. No doubt you have been mentored and encouraged throughout your lifetime by family and friends, members of the business community, your church groups and, if you were fortunate enough to do so, in an arena where you provided service to your country. Having said that, now you are going to find yourself being approached by people who want your advice and council. They want to be mentored by you and make no bones about it. Nothing begets success like success. One thing is certain, as it is also part of the unwritten code of leadership, you must respond to these people. You absolutely must. It is your turn to pay back and offer your experience and counsel to any and all that seek it. These are undoubtedly the next generation of leaders in our community and possibly of our country. There is nothing more fulfilling and at the same time humbling than to know that the good people of this community have realized that your actions have spoken louder than your words, and that your word is your bond. Most importantly, this community at large knows, as do you, that you have served with honor. Nothing that I have written about leadership today amounts to a hill of beans if honor is absent. I submit to you all, what could be better than that?
The final thing I have to say is one that bears repeating. To you, the successful leader of this town, whoever you are, you are going to find the overwhelming majority of rational people in this town, people with aspirations for a better tomorrow, are going to join with you. They are going to support you any way that they can. They are going to offer their encouragement on all issues through good and bad times. With gratitude and with all humility, as a citizen of one, I will be one of them. Whoever you are, I give you my word.