By James M. Decker

About this time last year, I wrote an essay that tried to define the concept of “community pride.” I found that we talk a lot about “community pride” but simple, straightforward definitions of the phrase are hard to come by. After working through various discussions of community pride and the definitions of “community” and “pride,” I proposed the following definition of “community pride”:

“A collective group of people’s dignity in, and satisfaction with, objects of importance and meaning to their group.”

We all know community pride when we see it. An enjoyable park or swimming pool, new youth sports facilities, tidy streets, successful high school sports teams, an exciting event that draws large crowds to the community...those are all outward expressions of this definition of pride.

In many of our communities, early voting has started for our local elections that will be held the first of May. These elections determine the leadership — mayors and city councils, school boards, and in some cases, hospital boards — whose decisions affect our lives, our families, and our communities on a tangible, daily basis.

The people who hold these offices also set the tone for our community pride. Through their leadership, and their decisions in those positions of leadership, these people set a standard for the objects of importance and meaning in our community. They allocate the time and financial resources of our local government entities. Whether they realize it or not, their allocation of time and money is a statement on what they prioritize in the community. Do their priorities align with yours? Do their priorities match your definition of community pride?

So I encourage you to examine the folks who are running for local office in your community, whether now or later in the year if your community has local elections at a different time. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their priorities and their definition of community pride. If they are running for office but can’t give you their priorities for the office, then they might not be worthy of your vote.

When I was campaigning for mayor this time last year, one of the most encouraging encounters I would have was someone who asked “why do you want to be mayor?” Some of these folks knew me and were challenging me. Others didn’t know me at all or they only knew me in passing. But they all wanted to know the answer to that question, because the WHY mattered to them. Someone simply running for office wasn’t good enough to earn their vote. They wanted to know my priorities and if my priorities matched theirs.

So I ask again the questions that I asked in this space last year: how do you define community pride? Does your community have pride? If so, how do you express it? If it is in need of improvement, where can you positively impact that pride?

I’ll follow up those questions with a new set of questions: who are the people running for office in your community in this election? Do they have community pride? Are their priorities worthy of your vote?

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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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