Someone recently asked me to describe my life and I responded by saying that I believe I live an extraordinary, ordinary life. I used these words unaware that many who have spoken on NPR’s “This I Believe” have used similar words to communicate their personal perspectives and beliefs.
In my small town, the extraordinary doesn’t seem as such. It’s only when I drive off this barrier island that I hear friends and colleagues describe my life in terms that I consider remarkable. I relocated from New York to create a small business with my best friend. A couple of years later, I became a volunteer firefighter. And a few years after that, I joined a dedicated group of individuals who led a small town on a path to municipal incorporation.
Shortly after I moved to the Outer Banks, a series of seemingly disconnected events motivated a small group of citizens to investigate the feasibility of incorporating our community into its own town. The effort required taking on the role of change agent — navigating into unchartered waters – setting out to do what I believed was in the best interest of the community. In the process, some of us lost friends. Some were maligned. Over the better part of two years, we were confronted with both obvious as well as covert attempts to derail us from our goal. We were not dissuaded. In spite of many obstacles, we did not back down from realizing a vision that was bigger than any one of our individual dreams.
In a very small town, a person’s contributions make a big impact. And grassroots participation feels more possible, not simply because the pond is smaller and easier to swim in. For me, life in a small town has invoked a profound sense of duty that quickly became my way of life. It has instilled in me a robust sense of commitment, which when met with integrity and courage has allowed me the opportunity to be part of many remarkable undertakings. And it is with these qualities that I strive to serve and lead this town (wearing a few different hats or helmets!).
As an elected official, I listen to the public comments of citizens who are both friends and strangers. I admire each person who stands to admit to a change of heart or express a dissenting view. I believe in the power of civic participation — the expression of duty, integrity, and courage — that continues to guide me as both a pubic servant and community leader.