Sir: I think most residents of Chatham-Kent are a little frustrated and I am positive a large majority of residents want to help, or be heard, or, at least, share their concerns.
For every comment that appears online expressing distaste for the leadership of this community, there are probably at least 400 more comments that do not get posted. I have been apprehensive about sharing my thoughts; people have told me that I will close doors for myself in Chatham-Kent if I express my thinking. But I truly believe expression and sharing can be a catalyst of change. If sharing my thoughts means closing doors, so be it.
After spending roughly 12 years in Toronto, we moved to Chatham-Kent in February this year. Some may say that seven months is not long enough to get a true picture of Chatham-Kent. Maybe so. However, I do think an objective perspective is important.
I have had the chance to meet a lot of people in C-K – parents through the school system, business leaders, administration leaders, friends of friends and passionate volunteers. I have had the chance to volunteer and work with some awesome people as well.
From the outside looking in and now being part of the community, I can tell you that C-K is a wonderful place to be. I was recently asked what I really think the challenges are that face Chatham-Kent. I feel there are two big challenges, but also big opportunities for us to grab hold of the future.
There seems to be a Lack of experience in the administration arm of this community and with our political leaders.
There is also a lack of leadership ability to unite this community around a strategic vision and developing a plan to achieve.
Lack of experience is a very natural phenomenon; everyone suffers from it in one form or another. There are always people more experienced that we can learn from. It is not the fault of anyone if they lack experience. Where the problem lies is when there is a lack of self-awareness regarding that lack of experience and therefore a reluctance to get help.
Whether looking through economic development plans, tourism plans or ways that we are trying to build our customer base (attract residents and corporations), a common lack of experience is evident. When I arrived here in C-K, the leadership was about to launch the “Not Toronto” campaign. Unfortunately the lack of experience and leadership that developed and supported that idea was not a flash in the pan.
The lack of leadership in this community has a relationship with the lack of experience. From my interactions, it seems that Chatham-Kent is operating in so many silos, from top to bottom. Silos will create financial inefficiency, will create communication frustration and ambiguity and will deter truly powerful thinking.
If I want to push a car on my own, it would be hard; two of us, a little easier; and so the analogy goes. The best leaders I have ever worked with had the primary responsibility of being sure people, and all resources were being allocated towards a common vision, with clear goals and objectives.
From small tactical details to larger strategic details, the challenges in C-K all seem to ladder back to a lack of experience and a void in true leadership. But, quite possibly, the most troubling is lack of self-awareness.
To wake up one recent morning and see that a candidate that is running for council in East Kent, that I have worked with and that I felt inspired by, withdrew – that was the tipping point for me. This is not the time for great individuals to back away, this is the time for great individuals to come together and support one another.
As a community, let’s push all candidates to provide a detailed overview of their experience and how it directly relates to the position they are running for, ask for details about their goals and objectives as leaders and hold them accountable over the next three-plus weeks to demonstrate their true ability to create change. This is the most powerful way and the first step in creating change.