As I was sitting at a meeting Thursday night, listening to the county commission, seven mayors, a couple of Marion city officials, and the county economic development director discussing, and at times debating, the functions and activities of Marion County Economic Development Council, I thought to myself, “How did this situation get to this point?”
What seems like many years ago, but actually only six, I attended MCEDC meetings as a City of Marion representative. I was always impressed with the cooperation and camaraderie among the cities — large and small. We celebrated each other’s triumphs, many times other cities being a part of that success. We rolled up our sleeves and did what we could to help each other’s communities. When there were events, we volunteered or returned to our communities to find volunteers to help.
During the five-year-period that I attended those meetings, I cannot recall any issue that caused a riff or a time when a smaller community felt less important. This was a venue where everyone was an equal — regardless of size or the number of representatives at the meeting.
Each representative has time and energy invested in the council, and deserving of a vote.
Now we have some smaller communities expressing dismay with larger communities, claiming to feel underappreciated, etc., etc.
My, oh my. What is going on?
What has happened to cause this ill will?
Is it time to get back to basics?
There are other issues far more pressing for the county developer and this council to handle than designating the chain of authority.
Forget complicated bylaws and protocol.
Meet each month in the spirit of sharing and planning and forget which town is bigger and has more votes.
Perhaps what’s missing is a county plan for economic development. That way, regardless of who is in the driver’s seat(s), goals will be met.
Another thought would be to talk with other county economic development groups. Marion County may be surprised to know that most operate differently. Many county volunteer/appointed development groups give direction to the economic development professionals instead of the developers giving direction to the appointed groups.
Perhaps that would be more acceptable because the paid professional would be following the wishes of a representation of the county population instead of possibly his/her own agenda.
Regardless, something has to change.
Most taxpayers would like to see all cities represented on MCEDC since it’s our money supporting their activities.
— susan berg