LIFT Recap

by Ruth Ellen Whitt
Leadership Texarkana Executive Director

Many thanks to everyone who signed on in support of the Leadership Initiative for Texarkana City Leaders’ Summit, and thanks to all city officials and community members who participated! We had an extremely productive summit.  As defined from the outset, our intent was an  LT-sponsored retreat, led by nationally-renowned facilitators, to build trust, respect and a foundation for working together as partners in future endeavors, and it happened!

We began on Thursday with two wary groups of individuals (one of whom admitted that she was coming “kicking and screaming”), and ended the summit with one unified cross-stateline group of community leaders genuinely committed to working together for mutual benefit. As an observer to all the conversations, I was overwhelmed and extremely moved to see the group interactions by Friday afternoon, with individuals in the small mixed-city groups leaning in to hear and contribute to the brainstorming about how they might coordinate actions, ensure ongoing and effective communication, and engage all citizens in supporting their efforts. Very productive thinking.

From years and years of prior visioning exercises, our community already has reams of goals defined by the citizens with the same dreams and wishes repeated over and over for decades, with the most repeated goal being the underlying imperative for our cities to be WORKING TOGETHER.  So, THAT was the singular goal of this summit:  HOW can we make that happen, when we lack the trust, respect, tradition, expectation, habit, urgency, structures and processes to make it happen?  The first step was to overcome trust and respect issues.  If we can do that (which was proven this weekend), and if we can create community expectation (which we have developed with intention through the LIFT sign-ons and conversation), then what are the structures and processes we need to put in place for communication between the cities to be habitual and effective. That’s the action plan which was addressed, because until those issues are resolved, then it will be challenging to pursue all of those other dreams and goals.

From the Summit sessions, the City Leaders have already taken several important first steps by committing to regular joint meetings of the city managers, for ensuring best use of resources, and for communicating back to boards, as well as a follow-up joint meeting hosted by the Chamber for fleshing out next steps, with a priority focus on establishing structures and processes needed to work together effectively (the characteristics of which were defined during the summit).

The women who were leading the Summit have taken all of the materials that were generated and are compiling a complete summary of the conversation, and the goals that were set for moving forward.  We are scheduled to publish a report for the public later this spring – which would, of course, include the actions which will have been set in motion as a result of the summit.

It’s time to take all our citizens’ long-held visions to action, but the first step has to be making Working Together our community M.O., and the City Leadership Teams are just a first step… beginning at the beginning.

The LIFT program has laid a community-wide foundation and expectation which, with continued commitment by all, can ensure a productive journey to a fruitful end.  Leadership Texarkana is in this for the long haul, so stay tuned.

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