Leading During Tough Times: Completing a County Leadership Team to Serve at the Pleasure of an Elected Board

North Carolina with all of its beauty is challenged by abject poverty in areas of the state that continues to struggle to get its footing. Charged with the responsibility of discovery is an elected body of officials along with a county executive that manages the work. In the absence of a manager with the technical and relational credentials that are unique to the experiences of that county, leadership goals are at tremendous risk.  It’s not enough to know the language of a local constituency. The net must be cast much wider. Legislative impact must not be felt for lack of awareness, but ever present as a must, in public discourse- following legislation at the local, state and national level is a “must have”. Such a proclivity is positional. The county becomes a producer of good remarks about good policies, opposing legislation that works against the good. Given this, managing demands a unique personality wedded in service to an elected board and their office, while at the same time, being attentive to the needs of the people within the context of that work.

Leading within a distressed community context takes both courage and a vision that’s bigger than the poverty. The appeal is not and cannot be solely on the work, although it substantiates the pay, but the will, the call to work in poverty places is a higher calling. Tucked between the resume and the interview must be a real person. There must be a tug from inside to inner-self that speaks dual languages- benevolence to duty and adherence to public policy.

 Across this great nation, leaders seem to have lost the will to care and promote as a highest calling, a love for a disadvantaged brother or sister. Instead, duties of mercy have been discharged for an election about things.

Because of this, it is more imperative now than ever before, to exercise amazing diligence in securing county management that reflects the work to be done and the effort needed to write pages of county history everyone is proud of.  If not, counties of poverty will rest its burdens on yet another willing prospect with neither the heart nor the courage to undertake and transform such a place into living its fullest potential. Instead, the weight of acts undone will sag in relation to the resolve of the board.

 The work in county management within a distressed community context is not just an oversight of department leadership, budgets and policy; these are given proficiencies. A county government is dependent on such skill to carry out the work of visionary leaders, serving at their pleasure, at all times for all people.  

A community has to grow and develop.  The saying that what you don’t use you lose, is true for any living organism. Counties must live. They were created to do just that. Poverty robs with casualties strewn, without human regard, across landscapes of insufficiency. As the county is managed by a balance of good judgment alongside fiscal, analytical and managerial integrity, intentionally engaging the community in the work of the county as partners of the change that must come, is the real charge county leaders must insist on and vote on.  

Managing a needy county is done with a natural propensity to make everything and everybody do much better than has ever been done before. Communities understand the language of progress. It is met with intention and the allocation of scarce resources that are strategic in its appropriation. As well, clarity of vision is being able to both see and articulate what has never been seen, capturing ideas as statements of mission and strategies that involve the community as stakeholder and partner.

Managing a county takes as a certainty, the role of progress, which follows good public policy crafted seeing human faces and appropriate resources to heal what ails places of poverty.  Putting the potential of community above its life in poverty, reflect both the heart and head of leadership.  Identifying the “must haves,” “should haves” and the “would like to haves” are incredible ways to capture the spirit of the elected board, as a guide to lead the process.        

Leading during challenging times places a demand on understanding poverty and what it takes to make progress happen. Not okay is doing the same thing and expecting different results or applying coverage over a blemish without a salve to bring healing. Open pores make a mess of a beautiful face just as repeating acts that host poverty ruins the appearance and reputation of beautiful people trapped by what can be best called “life happened.”