Three Commitments for Local Leaders in 2019

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As we begin 2019 and lay out plans for our communities, it is equally important to take time to set personal intentions for the new year. Here are three commitments that I hope every local leader can make in 2019.

Put yourself (and your family and friends) at the top of your priority list

There’s an adage that says, “if you don’t fill your gas tank, you can’t carry passengers.” When you’re leading a community, filling your gas tank means getting your health, your personal relationships and your finances in order. It means proactively making time for yourself and the things you need to operate at full capacity.

Of course, it’s easy to let your personal gas tank go empty. As a local official, there is never a time when your “to do” list is lacking. Once one community meeting, infrastructure project or new business groundbreaking is complete, dozens of other obligations and events are on deck. Never mind the fact that the majority of local officials are balancing a full-time job on top of elective office.

But, you can only coast on “E” for so long before neglect of personal responsibilities impacts your ability to govern effectively. When your personal empty light comes on, sloppy decision-making can take hold. So as we start 2019, I encourage every local leader to take inventory of the things that will keep the internal tank full and commit to carving out time to keep it that way. Our communities and your residents will be better for it.

Resist distractions from the job at hand 

Since the rise of smartphones a decade ago and advent of the 24-hour news cycle before that, it has become incredibly easy to react to the minute-by-minute machinations of what’s happening across the country and around the globe. In an increasingly interconnected world, there are certainly times when it’s necessary to respond to the issues and conversations happening outside of our own communities.

But, you must always come back to the reasons your residents elected you. They voted for you because of the dedication you have to your local communities. They voted for you because of promises and plans to do things like grow Main Street, improve infrastructure, create jobs, and keep their loved ones safe. So if an issue doesn’t ultimately benefit or connect with the goals and vision we have for our communities, then it is not worth your energy and efforts.

The beginning of a new year presents an opportunity to reflect back on the goals set when you first ran for office. Take time to recommit to those ideals and resist distractions from the job you were elected to do.

Get out of your lane

Innately, humans are creatures of habit. We form habits to make our lives more predictable. We seek comfort in the people and places that are familiar – and that confirm our beliefs and the way we’ve “always” done things. While the patterns we create can make our lives easier, they don’t necessarily allow for growth, new ideas and improvement.

I recently spoke with our nation’s transportation leaders about the concept of “getting out of your lane.” To be more effective at their jobs, I encouraged them to get involved in conversations about equity, housing, workforce development and the opioid crisis – conversations that are impacting public transportation providers, but aren’t necessarily an expected place for them to be involved.

Local officials are no different. It’s easy to surround yourself with those that provide comfort and confirmation. The more difficult – but beneficial – task is challenging yourself to put on the internal blinkers once in a while, get out of your lanes, and get into conversations with people and organizations that you might not engage with on a regular basis.

The year ahead holds so many promising opportunities for local officials and the communities you lead. I look forward to making these commitments myself, and I hope you’ll do the same.

Headshot_newAbout the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter: @ceanthony50.