The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

June 24, 2012

A vision for city

— Leadership is all about persuading — not forcing, but convincing — people to follow you in a certain direction.

If we’re honest about it, we think Greenville has suffered a leadership problem for many years. You can’t really put the blame on one person or one organization, because there have been plenty of administrative and elected office changes in both Hunt County and City of Greenville corridors over the past decade or more.

We also know local leaders don’t necessarily have to hold elected office or carry a special title to exercise great sway over the direction of their city.

As far as that goes, perhaps this newspaper shares in the blame for not doing a better job leading Greenville and supporting specific growth plans. We want to see the city grow, and we think it’s the job of a strong newspaper to make that happen by telling the truth and promoting the local economy.

While we aren’t sure of the cause, we do know there hasn’t been a consistent, well-executed vision of the future for Greenville citizens to buy into.

And that needs to change.

Everyone knows what they don’t want Greenville to become. We don’t want Greenville to become a ghost town if our biggest industries were to leave; we don’t want to lose our friendly, small-town feel; we don’t want to become another cookie-cutter bedroom community for Dallas commuters that sacrifices its soul on the altar of growth.

But we do want to grow — and grow in the right way. Without a vision for what Greenville will be like in the future, along with a specific action plan for how to get there, we’re much more likely to end up as the ghost-town Greenville or the soulless, cookie-cutter Greenville. No one wants that.

If this city is going to reach its full potential, we need to start not only thinking about what we’re going to become, but also taking real, tangible steps to get there. These things don’t happen on their own. They require strong leadership and a clear vision for the future.

Some ideas for what Greenville could look like:

— A growing city with a thriving, diverse economy. Instead of a stagnant population, we could have consistent and measured growth as more people and businesses move to town because we offer …

— A better quality of life. Planning today for large-scale park lands, high-quality recreation centers and attractive events facilities will make Greenville a better place to live. People will travel here because they want to experience what we offer, and they’ll want to move here to experience it permanently in their lives. Another plus would be …

— The best schools in Texas. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s one worth aiming for because nothing can drive a local economy for the long term and attract both families and quality businesses like a great school system. Everyone wants to live near great schools in …

— A clean, charming, well-kept town. Our downtown area, with a little work and investment, could become a major tourist attraction and source of local pride. Some Dallas suburbs are spending huge money to try to recreate what we’ve already got: a cute central business district with a historic feel. We’re already seeing some improvement here. Continuing to strictly enforce city codes and encourage investment in our neighborhoods could give all of Greenville the same sparkle we enjoy from the historic homes on Park Street today. Where cluttered, overgrown yards and weathered houses may be an eyesore today, they could become beautiful examples of small-town charm if we make the right decisions now.

Of course, you may have a different vision for Greenville. Whatever it is, please share it. We’d love to print your thoughts on this opinion page, just like we’re sharing our own dreams. And if you’re in a position to do so, get involved and encourage the entire city to make your dream a reality.

Somewhere in Greenville, there’s a leader waiting to step forward and persuade everyone to follow their dream for the future. They might be in elected office already; they might still be in school; or they might be you, the person reading this article today.

We won’t know until you step up. If you have a vision for Greenville, we’d love to hear it.