I am writing this within 24 hours of the announcement of Lisa McCarley’s sweeping victory of the open Fort Mill Town Council seat. I have written before that Lisa is a co-worker, a neighbor and a friend. But all that considered, I haven’t really known her all that long, and I don’t know her all that well.
On the surface, the decision of candidate to choose was not an easy one. Cory Kusick is also a neighbor of mine, although I have not met him yet. And Chris LaRocque is a fellow “Nutmegger” from Connecticut. Both men are veterans of our military, something which invokes the very deepest level of respect from me.
Most importantly, though, all three candidates share a common enthusiasm and love of this town, enough to put themselves through a campaign, and all the personal and financial sacrifices that go along with it. I am convinced that all of them, with their variety of experiences, would be able to do an amazing job on town council.
So bravo to all three candidates.
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But it was within an hour of meeting Lisa at a school fair – at the time having no idea that she lived in our neighborhood or that she and I worked together – that I saw her true colors. She is a person with unparalleled compassion for her community, for her friends and for her neighbors. And in my book, compassion trumps experience any day.
I had lunch with Lisa a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about some of my previous columns regarding the perceived division between transplants and natives in the town of Fort Mill. Lisa brought up an interesting point. She is also a transplant of sorts, having recently moved from a house with substantial property and privacy to a master planned community in Fort Mill. There, she quickly realized that half the population of Ohio was living in her neighborhood. And as a lifelong Fort Mill resident, she now found herself the odd man out. But if you ask her about it, I bet she would tell you she loves it!
This column wasn’t intended to be a pep rally for Lisa, but it kind of got away from me. I do love the democratic process, and I am very happy to see a good person voted into an important position.
The point I am trying to make is that Lisa’s example offers an important lesson. It is a call to service for us all.
We all have our gripes about the issues facing our town, yet barely more than 4 percent came out to vote – which was quadruple the number of voters in the last election. I read comments about not knowing where to vote and not even being aware that there was a special election, despite there being multiple stories in newspapers – including the Fort Mill Times – as well as TV coverage.
One of the universal truths about the democratic process and all levels of government is that you have no grounds to complain, argue or debate with those elected into office if you did not take five minutes to make your voice heard by casting a ballot. But it is more than that. This was a relatively simple election. There were three names for one position. Pick one.
We have some serious issues confronting our town, and many decisions that need to be made. While it is important that we elect the right people to manage those issues, it is equally important that we know what the issues are.
I don’t claim to know everything about building roads or schools or population expansion. But I do read, think and talk through these issues, often with people who know more than I do. And whether my opinion is right or wrong doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I am making an informed decision about for my town, the future and my family.
One of my favorite expressions, often mistakenly attributed to Ghandi, is: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
We are the agents of change in our own lives, in our family’s lives and in our friends’ lives. And although it requires a little more effort, we can be the same for our community.
So take the time to volunteer at your children’s school, within a neighborhood committee or at a local charity. Especially fellow transplants, get out there and meet some new people!
This is our town – whether you were born in Fort Mill or you moved here last week. We all need to “grab the rope” and pull hard if we want to make a difference.
Jim Donohue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.