Making Roswell Great Again

By Tai Anderson, October 24, 2016

If you know me at all, you know that I love my hometown of Roswell, Georgia. My wife and I both graduated from Roswell High School. Our 6 kids are all enrolled in the local public schools. We love Roswell football, cheer and wrestling. We love our friends and neighbors. 

Roswell is not a perfect city. There is no such thing. But, we’re pretty special. We have amazing, award-winning parks and schools, incredible restaurants, low crime, and it’s just a pretty darn great place to live, work, and raise our kids. 

When a local teenage girl and a nearby teenage boy were murdered over the summer, I wept. How could this happen in the city I love? There was not a satisfying answer to be found as there is no logical explanation outside of pure evil;  a disturbed young man took his grandfather’s handgun and ended 2 teenagers lives less than 3 miles from my home. By his actions, we lost one of our city’s greatest assets, a young lady with a promising future. I have not moved on. I never knew her, but I pray for Natalie Henderson's family every day.

Like the rest of my neighbors, I was scared. I found myself suspicious; less trusting of my neighbors. The murder was the kind of thing you’d expect to see on Law & Order SVU, not Roswell, Georgia. We love when Roswell makes the list of our nation’s best cities to live. We like being highlighted as one of the country’s coolest suburbs. With the murders, we were in the news in the worst context imaginable. When my son broke his curfew walking home just a few weeks later when his car battery had died after a football game, I wasn’t angry. I was scared. I had never been scared in Roswell before.

On Friday, Roswell once again made the news in another shameful incident. 

Roswell City Councilman Kent Igleheart was arrested on Oct. 20 and charged with sexual exploitation of a child, enticing a child for indecent purposes and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Igleheart, 53, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old who he started communicating with online when she was just 13 years old.
— Kristen Reed, WXIA, NBC
My son celebrating last week's win with Roswell alumni: Clemson's Tre Lamar and UNC's Tyrone Hopper.

My son celebrating last week's win with Roswell alumni: Clemson's Tre Lamar and UNC's Tyrone Hopper.

Whereas Natalie’s murder filled me with grief and empathy, Kent’s arrest has filled me with anger and disgust. I love when when Roswell is in the news for our #1 Ranked football team. I love when our great restaurants are receiving acknowledgement. I hate when Roswell is in the news for a scandal, especially one as disgusting as this. I’m a Roswell evangelist, and stories like this damage our city’s brand and my ability to tell the world what a great city we are, my favorite thing to do.

Over the past year, I’ve immersed myself (too much) in the presidential campaign. I’ve been at odds with the majority of my family, friends and followers because I just can’t get on board the Trump train. I see in him a man beholden to nothing outside of his own ego with character deficiencies I just can't overlook. At the same time, I feel no personal affinity for Hillary Clinton. I see in her a tragic flaw of a penchant for secrecy and a sense of entitlement I don’t easily stomach. When I’ve expressed my skepticism of either candidate, I’ve been admonished, even by faith leaders, to ignore character and instead vote not for the person, but the platform to which I most closely align. 

I wholeheartedly disagree.

When I think about a leader, whether in the presidency, city council, a coach, or CEO, I am absolutely convinced that character matters more than anything. I am convinced that the person is more important than the agenda. My job at Leadercast is to build leaders worth following based on a core set of values and behaviors. I just can’t let character slide. Some have questioned my patriotism and even my faith because of my conviction, but I am resolved to evaluate potential leaders by their character, and I’ve already voted. So, any arguments are wasted on me.

Richard Nixon’s legacy was ironically destroyed by the shortcomings in his character.

Richard Nixon’s legacy was ironically destroyed by the shortcomings in his character.

You see, leaders are rarely defined by their platform. They rarely get to realize their agendas. Rather, they are defined by the way they handle the unforeseen; the way they demonstrate their character in adversity.

Do you remember George W. Bush’s campaign platform? No, you remember 9/11 and the Iraq War. Do you remember F.D.R.’s platform when he ran? No, you remember how he responded to Pearl Harbor. Roswell's Coach John Ford shows his leadership of the football team not in a 45-3 rout, but rather when he stays calm at the helm when our Hornets battle back from behind, as they did last week.

In the same way, Kent Igeleheart’s position on any issue facing our city (past or present) is now rendered irrelevant even by the accusation of poor character and predatory behavior.

In the coming months, Roswell will have the tough task of replacing a city council member. If contested, multiple candidates are likely to emerge for the position, and it could be a petulant, contentious process. I trust our mayor to guide us through this process with strong leadership that puts the good of our community first.

We’re witnessing a national election where we’ve been asked to suspend evaluation of character and instead focus on the platform with which we most align. When it comes time to pick our new member of city council, especially in light of Igleheart’s scandal, can we please, please, please, please, please make character, values, sound judgement and behavior the most important thing? 

Of course, we will all gravitate to someone who shares similar perspectives on issues our city will face. However, reasonableness, compromise, and sound judgement are actually the most important qualities in a local election, even if they are dismissed in our national discourse. There will be those that will try to divide Roswell in the coming months in the same way that we have been divided during this national election. Let’s not let them do it.

Let’s commit right now to remain united; to reject any politics of division or fear. Let’s commit to putting this divisive national election behind us and get back to the things that really matter; our kids, our schools, our parks, our community, winning a state championship! If we truly want to be a great city, let’s make it by a reputation of being a community that genuinely loves and cares for its neighbors, ALL ITS NEIGHBORS.

It’s been a hard 3 months for our city. We’re facing serious challenges. But the recent events do not define who we are as a city. We are already a great city, and we can be even better, but we need servant leaders of high character to show us the way.