If I Were Elected What Would I Do?

One of my neighbors asked me to write something today about “my vision” and a five year plan for Ramseur. I think perhaps that might be putting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak, but it did get me thinking a bit this morning on the long ride to a jobsite and back.

First of all, writing something like that makes me sound like a candidate. As of this moment I have not made a decision with regard to running for any local office this year. I am getting a lot of encouragement to do so, and I admit that I have considered the possibility.

That said, I also believe that I might be more effective if I just continue doing what I’m doing here: recording meetings and reporting what I see. That’s a role someone needs to carry on no matter who we elect to serve as our next mayor or to fill seats on the board in any given election year.

I am reluctant to state a vision or lay out any sort of plans because I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know enough. Governing, at the local level or higher up the chain, isn’t something one can go into thinking, ‘I’m gonna do this, or change that, and make the world all better overnight, or even in the course of one four year term in office’.

It just doesn’t work that way. There are procedural rules, and budgetary constraints, and a host of other statutory limitations that I have only begun learning about, and I am still a long way from calling myself even a novice in the science of municipal government in North Carolina. So instead of laying out an agenda or vision of my own, here’s what I hope to see five years from now in Ramseur.

Ramseur will have seen three municipal elections five years from today; one this year (three seats and the mayor), one in 2021 (two seats), and another in 2023. By then I hope we will have long ago elected a new mayor who knows how to lead and can effectively communicate using the tools of the Information Age; unlike the current occupant of that office, who doesn’t know the difference between a Facebook comment and an email.

I also hope that long before then we will have elected a Board of Commissioners full of people who can all read at a college level – because government is complicated – and who know how to listen and talk to each other like adults; who know how to share the authority voters grant them; and who have the sense to seek and hire competent help in running the day-to-day business of our town, unlike the majority that today dominates our council.

I’d like to see our water treatment plant updated so that chemical levels in our water are well below acceptable limits. I’d also like to see our water distribution and sewage collection lines being replaced, and hopefully extended to surrounding areas where clean water is badly needed.

I’d like to see Main Street and the US 64 corridor bustling with commerce, especially in the form of entertainment. I want to see the Deep River Rail Trail finished, and canoe/kayak landings established at several locations along the river. Outfitters and other river centered recreational businesses would surely follow. And obviously I’d love to see some industrial growth in the area. I’ve thought for years that if we could get our water problems fixed we’d make an excellent location for a craft brewery.

On a personal note, I’d love nothing more than to see our downtown become more like an arts district, with galleries, or maybe a used books and records shop, a coffee shop or other places for people to gather and socialize. Having a museum that’s open more often than it is now would be great as well, but most of these things are not up to any one person, or even to the town council; they’re up to us all. The first step requires that people get involved, show up for meetings, run for office, and make their opinions known.

Most of all I’d like to see Ramseur have a more accountable and transparent government. Municipal government exists to provide citizens with services – water, sanitation, public safety. etc., and while we should always strive to break even or better, government is not a business, and sometimes breaking even or turning a profit in pursuit of the greater good of the community simply isn’t feasible.

In short, I hope to see more mature, educated adults running our local government, with help from competent professionals operating the various departments. I hope those we elect in the coming years will be civic-minded, forward thinking people who care about their neighbors and agree to move away from the concept of individual commissioners running one or more departments on their own.

I like the idea of working committees composed of board members, hired department heads, and maybe even a few citizens overseeing broader general service areas, but again, assuming I were ever to hold one of those seats, I’d only be one vote, and if I were mayor, only then in the event of a tie.

Where do I want to see Ramseur in five years? Much improved and growing because people want to call this place home.

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