LINDEMAN: Give Leaders Credit for Getting Involved

Cape Charles Wave

January 7, 2013

Be the change you want to see in the world.

We’ve all heard it. Sounds cliché-ish, but there is no truer a sentiment in this day and time.

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt spoke about “the man in the arena”:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

That speech is of a past time yet also of this time.

We residents of Cape Charles continually face an uphill battle trying to preserve, yet grow. We want to sustain our rural Shore lifestyle, but in a progressive way that is sensitive not only to our amazing historical architecture, but to our family and independent, hard-working values that we so cherish on the Shore.

We welcome new home ownership and tourism, but we do so carefully and by casting a cautious eye. We’ll gladly welcome a new mom-and-pop business, but shun the big-box guys that rely on scale to eek out their profits.

It is a constant struggle.

When Bay Creek came to town, that struggle came to the forefront. Cape Charles saw the opportunity but also recognized that the impending change had to be planned and monitored closely lest we became another Nags Head or Hilton Head.


We continue to struggle.

The most recent economic and real estate near-collapse hit our little town especially hard. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. However, how we climb out of the hole we’re in will be felt for decades to come. And that is the crux of our struggle today.

We need to think differently than we have in the past. Our town leaders have never had to deal with these sorts of changes before in their elected/appointed lives. Our challenges today are forcing us to think more creatively about how we feed the economy with a sensitivity to our history and lifestyle that we’ve never had to face before.

Yet, when the economy and markets fail us, we look to our leaders and lambaste them for not doing this or that to prevent the crumbling that’s occurring all around us. Why can’t you do this? Why can’t you do that? Why can’t you do more?!

Town leadership is a hot seat most don’t want to be in when the chips are down.

How we collectively respond is through blame, casting of anger, and disgust. It’s natural, and we’re not the first to do so. Every decision made is put under a microscope and torn apart as inept and not in keeping with the will of the people — the taxpayers. We all become armchair quarterbacks.

How many of us will curse at our favorite football team when they’re losing the big game, calling the quarterback, receiver, or head coach an idiot? We forget that they are the ones in that arena, who’ve worked so hard to make it to the professional ranks, the very top of their fields –- and we are the ones who sit in the armchair, swigging a lukewarm beer while scratching our navels.

Here in Cape Charles, we are a very creative lot. We have among us successful business owners, artists, writers, retirees from successful careers, and people who come from this land and these waters with a perspective many of us don’t have. We can do so much more than criticize from the sidelines. We can get involved. We can be the change we want to see in the world, and here in Cape Charles.

How? In one of two ways:

First, instead of railing against our leaders, offer to work with them to help solve our town’s problems. If people can come together to solve a problem and work towards a resolution, they’ll be more productive and successful than if one does all the work while the others sit on the sideline and criticize.

Offer to form a task force to tackle specific issues. Write to our town leaders. Show up for town meetings. Stand up and politely offer your opinion in a productive way. Offer ideas rather than criticisms. Volunteer.

Serve on town boards. There’s no election process to go through. Go to the town website and see where the vacancies are and inquire. If there are none, ask to be put on a waiting list to serve.

Most importantly, get involved.

Second, you can run for elected office. I know — why would you want to be that guy in the arena who everyone else criticizes? Read Roosevelt’s speech again at the top of this article. That’s why.

Serving in an elected office shouldn’t be a lifelong commitment. It should be an opportunity to give back to the community and to serve the populace. Make an impact and then pass the torch to the next guy. But who’s going to be that next guy? Is it you?

We have many of the same leaders on council as we’ve had for years, mainly because no one wants the job. But we need some new leaders. We need some fresh thinking. Nothing against those that are in office today. At least they are trying. It’s more than most of us are doing. I know it hurts to read that. It should. This is a call to action and taking action can be painful. I get that.

If we collectively want Cape Charles to be a better place, it’s going to take all of us to join together to work as one to make it happen. I’m not saying doing so will be this perfect, harmonic bliss. It won’t be. But I guarantee that we cannot get to where we want to go without people working together to make it so.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds . . . .

How will you enter that arena?



7 Responses to “LINDEMAN: Give Leaders Credit for Getting Involved”

  1. Roger L. Munz on January 7th, 2013 12:01 am

    Bruce, I for one applaud your idea, and realize that often it takes a village to accomplish many of life’s worthwhile things. And perhaps the town administration would open up for the residents, and, as a new year’s resolution, become more transparent. Many of the problems this past year stem from the lack of openness and the town’s perceived need for secrecy in most all matters. This being the case, it becomes very difficult to work with the town due to the lack of a willing dialogue. I firmly believe there are many town residents ready and willing to take up this challenge, to think outside the box, and express new ideas in a joint town and resident taskforce. But this must be a two-sided effort if any progress can be expected. Dare we hope for a brighter future?

  2. Mary Finney on January 7th, 2013 4:17 pm

    Mr. Lindeman makes a good point here: serving in an elected or appointed position is not an easy job (at any level), and is often thankless, or worse. Those who step up and take on that responsibility deserve to be commended. However, it is the DUTY of each and every elected (and appointed) official to be honest and open with the community that he or she serves. In reading this piece, I noticed that Mr. Lindeman has avoided addressing that most important point. While it is certainly a noble task to encourage citizens to become involved in the workings of their local government, I feel that this is not the problem or the issue here. In fact, I will argue that those who speak out in disagreement (I’m sorry to see them referred to as “critics” here) ARE involved and ARE participating. There is a time and place for everything; perhaps now a little complaining is justified.

  3. Deborah Bender on January 8th, 2013 7:57 am

    When and if our our Mayor and current town council (with the exception of Frank Wendell) actually start to listen to what the residents have to say, then and only then would I get involved. I do plenty of volunteering for OSCC and Cape Charles Christian School both of which I have a dog in the fight. My husband’s father graduated from that Historic old school on June 1, 1944 and my grandson attends the Christian School.

  4. Bruce Lindeman on January 8th, 2013 10:32 am

    Hi Mary — My thoughts weren’t about the honesty and/or openess of our town leadership. That was not my goal in writing this piece.

    My thoughts were about us all getting more involved in helping to shape the decisions that affect our town. Whether I agree or nor with groups such as OSCC, at least they are creating dialog and trying to prevent what happened with the old HIgh School from occuring again. It’s action.

    We can hold our leaders to task. We can impact who leads through our vote. We can shift the dialog by simply showing up and voicing our concerns and getting rules, code, and even laws changed if they are working against us.

    But, doing all of the above requires action and it requires mass. These are things we can do and should do.

  5. Donna Bozza on January 10th, 2013 9:58 am

    Well said, Bruce. It’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and pitch those tomatoes; more of us should get involved. There is a difference between holding public officials accountable to their responsibilities as we should, and getting down and dirty with ugly, personal attacks. It’s sad we see way too much of the latter.

  6. Bruce Lindeman on January 11th, 2013 7:42 am

    If anyone needs it, here’s a link to the town’ web site. Specifically, the link is to the application to serve on a town board, such as the planning commission. Come on, get in that arena!

  7. Mary Finney on January 16th, 2013 9:56 am

    Hi Bruce — I am indeed aware of your goal and purpose in writing the above piece. I was simply pointing out that persons who are elected or appointed to make decisions for a community were not forced to do so. Your failure to address the current tense relations between many town citizens and their elected agents, to me, was glaring and significant, and I felt compelled to comment.

    And Donna — I’ve only been reading the Cape Charles Wave for a few weeks, but I am happy to say that I have not encountered any remarks that were ugly, or any personal attacks. I absolutely agree that we can and should exercise our 1st Amendment Freedoms in a polite and civil manner, and I am glad to see that done here.