LIFT Perspectives: Summit Plus One

by Ruth Ellen Whitt
Executive Director, Leadership Texarkana 

As Executive Director of Leadership Texarkana, the question I’m most commonly asked is “What’s going on with LIFT?”

LIFT is alive and well and is driving the work of Leadership Texarkana, because LIFT – or the Leadership Initiative for Texarkana – IS the work of Leadership Texarkana.

What folks are REALLY wanting to know, however, is “What’s been going on with our work with the city leadership teams of the two Texarkanas? Did anything come out of the LIFT City Leaders’ Summit?” The answer is Yes, and given that the summit was held one year ago this week, it’s a perfect time for review and reflection.

If you will remember, as of last January, the two city teams had not managed a way nor a joint commitment to coming together; many of the team members had never even met, and there was a general feeling of mistrust and hard feelings.

The defined intent of the retreat was to build trust and respect among the leadership teams of the two Texarkanas, creating a foundation for working together as partners in future endeavors. That occurred with outstanding success for those in attendance, with unanimously expressions of appreciations for the opportunity.

The group jointly generated lists of ideas for ways to reap mutual benefit from working together. Within short weeks of the summit, the Chamber leadership was expressing their appreciation of the fact that city leaders from each side were showing up at ribbon cuttings across the stateline, building on their acknowledgment at the summit that a success for one Texarkana was a success for the other.

At summit’s end, there was a specific commitment for regular joint meetings of the two City Managers; although that schedule was not possible during the months of City Manager Boldt’s absence from his position. However, conversations have begun again, to coordinate actions for mutual benefit.

The good feelings persist and the relationships have grown across the State Line, an outcome which Leadership Texarkana has been committed to fostering. For the Government session of Leadership Texarkana last fall, both Texarkana City managers shared their perspectives with the Leadership Texarkana class at a breakfast session, facilitated by Jeff Sandford of the Chamber. All of the elected officials from the two Texarkanas were part of a special lunch session the same day, with each of the elected officials given the opportunity to share a bit more of their personal perspectives on serving their communities. Most every elected official present referenced the positive impact of the LIFT summit.

The voluminous lists generated at the Summit have driven even more activities, such as the cross stateline Beautification Summit and, as importantly, plans with the community’s high school students to discuss how best to start young in building a community that wants to plumb whatever benefits there may be in working together.

The LIFT Summit conversation also had perceptible impact on citizens beyond City Halls, with reports that there was much less animosity and distrust among citizens following the Summit, and a renewed willingness to discuss joint ventures. Of course, a good part of energies leading up to the LIFT Summit also included a community-wide sign-on campaign in support of working together.

Which leads me to reiterate: LIFT is alive and well and is driving the ongoing work of Leadership Texarkana, because LIFT (i.e., the Leadership Initiative for Texarkana) IS our work. LIFT is not just a City Leaders’ Summit. LIFT is what is says: a Leadership Initiative for Texarkana. Our purposeful intent is to broaden the community conversation about community leadership beyond just the 600 local and living graduates of our flagship Leadership Texarkana program, to provide a unifying voice of vision, and to engage all leaders and citizens throughout the Texarkana area in working together to create our best future,

Has LIFT changed the conversation in our community? The expectations?
Does it have the capacity to change the outcomes?

That’s our belief. Leadership Texarkana is motivated by the prospect of a community that’s not only one of a kind (or twice as nice) but also SECOND TO NONE throughout, due to citizens from all arenas (including our City Halls) who are working smart by working together with common focus to make it so.

Leadership Texarkana will be hosting the day-long LEADERCAST 2014 on May 9th, with outstanding speakers simulcast to hundreds of sites from around the globe. We believe that leadership is the lid on any business, institution or endeavor; the greater the leadership capacity, the higher the lid. We believe that the most effective community is one which is filled with individuals, at all levels, taking some measure of responsibility for the community.

What might happen if we all imagined Texarkana was our business? Because it is.

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