About 15 months ago, my heart was broken. My beloved Roswell Hornets came up short in the GHSA 6A Championship Game to Colquitt County. I wanted the victory for my son, the team, and my city so badly that I had tears welling in my eyes. Just the day before, our neighbors from Blessed Trinity had also competed in the State Championship game in the AAA classification and lost in an absolute heartbreaker. Our city was so close to two State Championship titles, but we came up just short.
I couldn’t sleep that night. So, I got out of bed at 3 AM and wrote a blog titled One Roswell, the theme for the football season that year and the name of the Youth Football Clinic we’ve put on for 3 years with the Roswell Youth Football and Cheer Association, on whose board I serve. The blog was cathartic. It allowed me to vent all my frustration with the two teams’ losses into a constructive outlet. I ended the blog with a positive call to action to my neighbors to maintain the unity we all felt leading up to the games as proud Roswellians going forward in our city.
As the blog circulated around the city, many neighbors reached out to me to express gratitude for the blog, but to also convey that words like “positive”, “unified”, and “grateful” are not exactly accurate descriptions of our current local political culture.
I decided to find out for myself. So, I started attending City Council meetings. You know the awkward feeling when you’re out socially with a couple and you can tell they’ve just had a big disagreement. That is how I would describe the atmosphere at City Council. There were cold stares, crossed arms, and just an overall tension in the room. When citizens got up to voice their concerns, they would use their time for self-aggrandizement and castigation of the mayor and council. It was palpably toxic. You could tell that there was some kind of darkness infecting the core of what should be a shining example of representative democracy, our local government. Something was rotten.
On October 21st, what had been done in secret was brought to the light. The news broke a horrifying story that Councilman Igleheart had been arrested and accused of 4-year relationship with a teenager girl. Nauseating! Fortunately for Roswell, our nation was focusing on our Presidential election and the candidates’ own moral shortcomings. Otherwise, Igleheart’s alleged crimes might have become an even bigger embarrassment to our city.
I decided right then and there that I wanted to get involved to help make our city a better place. Igleheart’s resignation triggered the special election that culminates in tomorrow’s vote for his replacement. I purposed to do my part to help raise citizen awareness and engagement in our local government.
You see, Character counts. The problem with local elections is that people often make their vote based on one single issue with a limited amount of candidate information. Citizens become single-issue voters focused on whatever “not in my backyard” issue is most top of mind. Consequently, we elect politicians who most placate to that specific issue instead of objectively evaluating candidate qualifications, leadership, and character.
Igleheart’s arrest underscored for me that nothing is more important than character.
I sought out and found like-minded citizens who shared my “big picture” view of leadership.
I connected with Roswell business owners, neighbors, entrepreneurs, moms, dads, coaches, and volunteers that all agreed on some basic principles:
- Roswell is a wonderful place to live, work, and play.
- We need leaders of character to help guide our city into the future.
We formed POSITIVELY ROSWELL, a 501(c)(4) organized in the state of Georgia as a citizen action group. As such, we would not support any specific candidate but rather live out a much broader mission for our city.
Our Mission: We seek to enhance the level of citizenry engagement in local Roswell, GA governance and to better educate voters on local issues; fostering elevated, collaborative, respectful dialog between the city and its citizens.
Over the past few months, we’ve done citizen surveying, started positive conversations, helped produced a student-run candidate interview series, and highlighted other positive stories about our city to our community.
With 6 kids, I don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around. So, I decided to commit what I could, my time and my talent. I helped design the logo, built out our website, organized our newsletter, and worked to set up our social channels. I helped produce some swag for our kick-off party, did 3 podcasts with current candidates, wrote a few blogs about the election, and helped design our yard sign to help bring out the vote for this special election.
It has been really rewarding to serve my community in this way. I am a living example that you don't have to donate money to give back to our city. Each of us has talents that we can deploy to make our city a better place. On this journey, I’ve made some great friends with an incredible passion for our city. We support different candidates, but we all agree that our city will be best served by a well-informed and engaged electorate. We're taking a longer view than just this special election. We have a long-term view of helping to develop a healthy culture in and out of City Hall.
This morning, I woke up to a Facebook notification from a single-issue focused community group accusing POSITIVELY ROSWELL of campaign fraud. They asserted that we had donated $1,300 to Marie Willsey in an attempt to discredit our organization and Marie’s campaign.
It is simply not true. Our organization doesn’t support specific candidates. Instead, we help to educate our citizens about all the candidates. Individual members choose to support candidates with their resources if they choose, but never on behalf of Positively Roswell.
This is the kind of deceptive, dirty politics that we don't need in our city and the kind of tactics that Hatcher Hurd identified in his piece in the North Fulton Herald.
Unlike our organization, the "citizen groups" make no attempt at candidate neutrality. At first, I was angry. So, I went and worked out in our beautiful Roswell Area Park. Now, I just find myself feeling much like I did after the football championship game 15 months ago. I feel sad for our city, but once again compelled to put my thoughts into words.
Neighbors, we cannot allow deception and single-issue voting to infect our hometown. We have to go higher. We have to be positive and not resort to attacking our neighbors who choose to get involved in our city government. That's a good thing! If we do, we will continue to fall short of our biggest and most sacred charge as citizens; to elect leaders of high character who can lead with wisdom and discernment. Sadly, I know that even by writing this blog, there will be fellow citizens scouring the web trying to see if they can discover any dirt on me to discredit this positive message. Is this the atmosphere we want in our town?
Friends, it’s time to get involved. Tomorrow’s special election is our chance to participate in a sacred, patriotic act; voting. Don’t be influenced by the negative, snarky, forces of attack that feed on fear and deception. Rather, get informed. Check out the resources that POSITIVELY ROSWELL has provided to help you get to know the character of all the candidates, and cast your vote for a better, healthier, and balanced Roswell.
What candidate do I support? Well, I’m keeping that to myself. But, one thing I can tell you is that I am @ProRoswell, and you should be too!