New Leaders Are Out There, If We Want Them

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By Dr. Gloria Alkire

In the upcoming election there are two incumbents seeking reelection and one open seat as Steve Rosansky hits his term limit.  It is time for our community to consider whether to seek new leaders or stay the course, and who will step up to run the race.

Leadership is an influence process, and with it comes enormous power and responsibility.  Most everyone has experienced the power of the council to change daily lives as they institute no-smoking rules, leaf blower bans, height restrictions for  homes and many other rules, ordinances, and policies which can make our lives easier or more difficult depending on the neighborhood you live in and your personal philosophy about how much and how far a city should govern your way of life.  Remember the chickens!

Some pending decisions include but are not limited to:  group homes in local neighborhoods, Banning Ranch development, John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement, Lido Village revitalization, and clean water and beaches.

The work of the city councilmembers is daunting.  The decisions require leaders who at the very least value the community’s input and expertise, listen to all sides before making decisions, can analyze hard and soft data, are collaborative, can share power and authority, exhibit strong communication skills, are ethical and demonstrate good judgment through their personal and professional behavior.

We can draw from a large pool in Newport Beach – but will we ever get there?  When you look at the many city committees and commissions, you see the same names year after year, as if there is a shortage of volunteers and good candidates to fill the many leadership positions in our city.

Yet as you see people approach the council during critical issues you see many people who have expertise on various topics and issues who could offer much to improve decisions in our city.

What are our leaders doing to promote and develop leadership now and for the future, if we continue to appoint the same individuals to our task forces, commissions, and city committees?

Do we have talented, competent, well-educated citizens to lead in our city?  The answer is a resounding yes.  They live in our neighborhoods, they are teachers, professors, housewives, fathers, church leaders, philanthropists, business owners, artists, corporate leaders, and the list goes on.

In running for council in 2008, I met many outstanding competent people who would and could make great leaders in our community. But they are not in the political network to be promoted, trained, or given opportunities to participate.  This does a great disservice to our entire community.

Are you as a community ready to vote for candidates who have not been on numerous city committees, received hundreds of endorsements, and are promoted by one party?  When will our city be ready to consider a different profile for candidates and community leadership on our many city committees?  Would you consider voting for an independent Democrat or a Republican not endorsed by their own party?  Do candidates need to know all the citywide issues inside and out to win your vote?  Why do we accept the notion that you should not run against an incumbent?

If you are dissatisfied with current leadership why give them four more years?  Our system seems to discourage leadership, not encourage it.  When I ran for council, I did it because I wanted to give people a choice and felt that I had the essential training, experience, and leadership qualities.  I knew that I could easily acquire the knowledge needed to make critical decisions.

Many citizens in our community are capable and ready to run.  But can they be elected?

Perhaps it is time to rethink who our next leaders will be and how we as a community will assess their ability to lead, and begin to promote them in our community and let them know we are ready to rethink and to support those who will take the risk and accept the commitment to lead us into the future.

Let’s consider moving from a political profile to the good-citizen/servant role, much like our many local grassroots organizations. We need people who see their leadership role primarily as choosing service over self-interest.


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  1. Great article (“Courageous Citizens speak Up”). It used to be that citizen participation used to impact public policy…not so today. Seems that money is what determines what we hear and see, and individual voices are lost in the myriad of ads, TV, and the radsio talk shows.