John Stumbo taught law for more than 25 years and now is in his third term as Mayor of Fort Valley. He is a recipient of the American Hometown Leadership Award which recognizes leaders from small communities whose community service exhibits the highest stands of dedication, ability, creativity and leadership. A registered Boy Scout for over 50 years, he has served as a director of that group's southeastern regional board. He also previously chaired the board for the regional officer training college for the Salvation Army.
“Elected leaders should provide the inspiration for excellence and not just mediocrity in communal living.”
September 18, 2008 Small Towns Offer Great Value John Stumbo, Mayor, City of Fort Valley
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The phrase “city upon a hill” was first used by John Winthrop in a sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity” delivered in 1630. His purpose was to suggest that the cities the Puritan colonists would build in the New World would be cities upon a hill, sending a beacon of light to the rest of the world.
Winthrop’s words to the Puritans nearly 400 hundred years ago challenge us today, even for those who, like me, live in a small town. Can we exemplify the best in communal living so that our small town upon a hill can send forth a beacon to our people and the world beyond? And can the beacon we send forth tell the world of our quality of life, commitment to our people and that tomorrow will be better for those that come after us because of our efforts?
I think so.
Small towns, like the one I live in, are often described as having more stray dogs than stop lights and streets that “roll up” at 9:00 p.m. But people in small towns often make a point to know everyone else’s business. If your dog runs away from home undoubtedly ten neighbors saw him and know that it was your dog. You know you are in a small town when everybody shows up for the high school football game on Friday night for hot dogs, Cokes and “seventy-six trombones.”
The pace is slower. There are no long commute lines. The cost of living for housing and professional services is often less. The quality of life is often better in a small town.
And I’ve found that people in a small town know and care about each other. Because people know many others in the town they share each other’s tears and smiles, watch their children grow up and know that all of us are in the same boat going down the same river of life together.
There is great value in these things, where caring is a way of life.
But it isn’t easy. We must depend upon our leaders in the community to provide the people with vision and a fervent desire to work together. We must avoid our tendency for myopic vision. Elected leaders should provide the inspiration for excellence and not just mediocrity in communal living. Warren Bennis reminds us that “leaders are people who focus attention on a vision.”
A city inspired to excellence will enjoy a future that is filled with hope and where tomorrow will be better than today.