Past is Prologue
How LT Sparked a Personal Mission to Bring People Together
Seventeen years ago, when I moved to Tallahassee, I didn’t know many folks here.
I was a young, Tifton, Ga., native (Go Dawgs!) looking for a great place to raise a family with the dream of starting a bank. My employer at the time nominated me for Leadership Tallahassee (LT) Class 24, and what a difference that made.
Let me flash forward for a moment to the last couple of months.
I’ve been taken on a terrific tour of Tallahassee’s southside — eating incredible food and meeting amazing people — thanks to my friend, Tallahassee City Commissioner Diane Williams-Cox.
While our races are different, we have shared visions of what makes this community great. We both enjoy bringing people together to focus on what unites us, not what divides us. Commissioner Williams-Cox has introduced me to all sorts of people who shared their visions of what is needed to build on our communities’ strengths and address its challenges.
We don’t always agree on the solutions, and … who cares? The conversation, fellowship, and listening to other viewpoints are what matter most.
Making efforts to better understand each other is only one of many lessons learned in LT.
Never Underestimate the Need
Another lesson came during “Education Day,” in the 2006/2007 Class. I don’t remember the school: only that it was situated in a low-income area. However, I will never forget someone asking the principal, “What can we do to help your school? What is the one thing you need?”
The one-word answer left us all silent.
Not computers, school supplies, educational materials, mentors, or volunteers.
The children in the school were so poor they needed the most basic things. If underwear was at the top of the list, it was hard to imagine what else was on the list. This was a profound moment for me as I recognized how deep my newly adopted community’s needs truly were.
Giving Back: Part of the Culture
Since then, with the support of a fantastic Board and an incredible team, we built that new bank – Prime Meridian Bank – and we’ve made community outreach a hallmark of our mission.
From helping organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club to conducting free workshops on financial literacy to adopting schools as a part of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber’s Classroom Connection program – giving back is simply a part of our culture.
Growing Partnerships, Growing Jobs
The LT experience has also made bringing people together a part of my personal mission. As I take the reins as Chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber Board of Directors, I’ll be looking to build on the growing partnerships we’ve established in the business community, especially with the Capital City Chamber, the Big Bend Minority Chamber, and NEBA.
What we have in common with those groups – namely the importance of growing jobs for the future of our community — is much greater and more important than what divides us.
I’m honored and excited to be leading the Chamber Board in the upcoming year.