By James M. Decker

Today, I’m thinking about 2019. I know it’s still several days away and we’ve all got lots of things to do between now and then (boy do I ever). But as 2018 draws to a close, I think it’s important to reflect on the year that has passed and the year to come.

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In 2016, much was made of the importance of rural America and the rural vote in the outcome of the presidential election. For months afterwards, politicians, pundits, and prognosticators from all political stripes waxed philosophical about the importance of rural America. They opined that rural America had been “forgotten” and that we need to repair the frayed relationships between the distinctly rural, suburban, and urban segments of the country. For the most part, America’s talking class just talked. They used “rural America” to justify their pre-established opinions and determined that their pre-determined policy ideas were the perfect solution for whatever ills were troubling the rural folk.

I’ve also seen some pushback. Those with little appreciation for America’s formative history didn’t see the point of helping rural America. A recent column in the New York Times espoused the view that it might be too difficult, if not outright impossible, to “save” rural America.

Quite frankly, I don’t really care what the talking class has to say, good or bad, about the future of rural America. For the most part, these folks are looking to fill airtime, raise money for their own organizations, and accumulate their own power. Saving rural America is not purely their altruistic cause.

And the reality is, we don’t NEED it to be their altruistic cause. No problem in American history was ever solved by outside helpers determining that a problem needed to be fixed. Sure, outside help might be needed along the way, but only after those folks on the ground, dealing with the problem, decided it was time to fix the problem. Our forefathers tamed the Texas frontier by determining it would be their home and then finding a way to make it safe for settlement, calling in the cavalry when it was needed. Segregation was ended by people who saw its moral repugnance and took it upon themselves to lead the charge, asking for help from outside when it became needed.

All of us in local leadership—whether elected, volunteering, or just an interested citizen—are the ones to decide if we want to “save” our piece of rural America. Austin isn’t going to do it. Washington, D.C. isn’t going to do it. We are the ones who must do it.

I didn’t run for mayor of Stamford because I was eager to add another set of meetings to my calendar, nor did I run to preserve the status quo. I ran for office out of a passion for my community and the people within it. I ran out of a desire to ensure those people, and their future generations, have a better community to come home to.

As 2019 dawns, I place that charge on each of you reading this who are also passionate about your community. Are you satisfied with the status quo? If not, what are you going to do about it? If you think you don’t have a voice in your community, how can you make your voice be heard?

Who will it be to improve our local communities? Are we going to wait on “them” to maybe one day get around to thinking about fixing it? Or are we go going to take the lead ourselves?

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James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at Listen to our podcast interview with James here.


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