Stuck In The Shadow Of The 80’s

editorial-logo3This week I have been pondering the question Why is Jefferson County stuck in the shadow of the 1980s? and how can we move forward to where we need to be in 2014 (because 2013 is already shot). Frankly, I loved the eighties. Big hair and plastic shoes still make me smile but I was still in high school during the early eighties and by the time I was paying taxes and looking for a job we were on our way to recovering from the recession. Jefferson County appeared to ride the 1980s out on top of the wave. Our schools were at the top of the heap, both academically and athletically. Our County was attractive enough to the general public that we began to boom with the turn of the next decade and continued for another 15 years or so. I would like to think that we haven’t topped out as a County because there is still a lot of living to do in these hills and valleys.

So, where do we go from here and how do we beat the ghost of a decade long gone? Any growth in our County will be driven by our legislative body. They will get the credit for what is good and they will shoulder the responsibility for what is not. That is simply a part of the package that comes with the office and, thus far, they have spent three years treading water and hoping to avoid the sharks. Now, we are at the start of their final year in office ( before election) and we are still waiting for leadership to emerge that can actually bond this group of elected officials and make something real and good happen for Jefferson County. The Commission is going to, for the fourth time since their election, appoint County committee members. Though it is not popular to say, not all committees hold the same importance in the governmental structure. It is perfectly fine to appoint a Commissioner or citizen to a committee because you like them or you owe them a political favor but you must be careful which committee you use for those appointments. Committees and Boards that are designed to drive the economy in the community should have members that are capable of the task. I hate to be the one to point this out but it does not require life long residency in Jefferson County to sit on the Industrial Development Board or the Finance Committee. And, sometimes a Commissioner is not the best choice for a Board or Committee. Jefferson County has some residents that have a lot to offer in the way of experience but are overlooked when the time comes to place appointments. Why? Why would you not utilize the skills of those that choose to live in the community and value our County?

It is time to get in touch with reality around here and utilize our assets. What we are doing now isn’t working and we desperately need a change in direction. Do we have a deficit of residents of Jefferson County that are exceptionally qualified to serve our County on a Board or Committee?  No. We have an abundance of qualified citizens who just can’t seem to make the cut with the Commission and it is a head scratching issue. These citizens have private experience that could really benefit our community. Instead, they appoint the same little handful of people to committee positions and Boards so we have the same little handful of ideas presented over and over. Certainly, there are some appointees that are qualified to serve but there is no cross representation and little diversity in committees. On the IDB, there is slim cross district representation. Women are scarce as appointees for Committees that have teeth and racial diversity is about nil. To say that our Commission appointees are representative of our population would be incorrect.   We are stuck at a stalemate and nobody seems to know what our next move should be. Perhaps if we could add some new ideas to the mix we could move forward.

Jefferson County has been holding onto the economic downturn like a $20 cigar that we have to smoke down to the end. It is time to take a deep breath and move on because the longer we inhale the same stale rhetoric the less our chances of real recovery. Instead of the sound of progress, the loudest noise in the meeting room is the sound of the ghosts of progress past shaking their chains.

Source: K. Depew, News Director