Resident participation is key to a better community

With the 2016 election behind us, I’m honored to be the newest member of the Pinecrest Village Council. As our country still wrestles with the aftermath of the most contentious presidential election in recent memory, I’m thankful that similar divisiveness is not part of our beautiful community.

In our village government, partisan politics have no place. We are all on the same team – Team Pinecrest – no matter your party affiliation or candidate choices. I will be both fiscally conservative and support our families and our schools. It’s absolutely the best of both worlds, and one of the things that helps keep Pinecrest such a safe and desirable community.

Pinecrest is strong and our family-friendly neighborhood is blessed with some of the best schools in South Florida, dynamic religious institutions of various faiths, great parks and innovative community programs. But one of our challenges I heard again and again from residents is that many want more of a sense of community. They don’t know enough of their neighbors. Whether it’s the nature of the times, architectural trends toward gates and walls or broader cultural and societal forces such as social media, a lot of people yearn for more face to face interactions.

One of the great joys of my campaign was it gave me the excuse to march up to the doors of thousands of homes all over town and introduce myself. My goal was literally to meet every single person in town that I possibly could. I was nervous the first few times, but my fears were unfounded. I was welcomed with grace and patience, supplied with bottles of water, introduced to children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents, given gifts of mangoes and avocados and treated with a graciousness and friendliness that often ended in hugs and high-fives. My ability to serve this town increased exponentially with every resident I met.

Personal connections are the key to success, a lesson I learned over two decades of serving and leading not-for-profits. The more points of intersection and friendship that we weave together in public life, the better off our community will be.

Going forward, a personal priority is to keep a finger on the pulse of the community and increase resident interaction. I want the Council to schedule regular round tables or other forums of informal discussion so that we can brainstorm issues and ideas. You may not be aware, but state Sunshine Laws prohibit councilmembers from having private discussions pertaining to council business. Adding more opportunities for public input before items come up for a vote will allow us to have dialogue with each other and affected residents. This will help us learn and weigh all sides of issues, and more effectively co-govern with you.

We also must continue to look for ways to draw residents out from behind closed doors and gates and into our neighborhoods so that we can meet and get to know each other. Our Parks and Recreation Department has a role to play here: opportunities for all ages to see art, music, and dance, space for interest groups and hobbyists to gather and share, programming for our seniors and toddlers and all ages in between, and sports and extracurricular activities for our kids. The expansion underway at our Community Center will provide much-needed space to enhance current offerings.

The Village should continue to build new ways for neighbors to interact, but residents should also actively seek out opportunities for engagement. I encourage all of you to become involved in the community through whatever passion moves you – schools, local government, charity, places of worship, sports or the arts.

One very fruitful endeavor is a “club” you can have with your neighbors by creating or participating in one of our Neighborhood Crime Watch groups. This works on the simple principle that neighbors who know each other and are comfortable with one another will look out for each other. The watch groups foster community, and keep us all safer.

Of course, my days spent knocking on doors and chatting with residents brought more concerns to the fore: access to city water, traffic, strengthening our police and keeping a firm hand on our finances and a low mileage rate. Rest assured that your village council will work diligently to address all these issues and take action responsibly and efficiently. I am confident of my ability to hit the ground running after two years of faithfully attending council meetings, budget workshops and advisory committee meetings. None of this is on the job training for me. Our new mayor and my colleagues on the council are experienced and well-informed, and there will be mutual respect and cooperation. If “all politics is local,” Pinecrest is certainly the best place to be.

Read the original article here.