Sunday, June 16, 2013

Letourneau Commentary on County Manager Selection Process

Below is a commentary published (6/18/13) in News-Press by Darla Letourneau, one of the steering group members of BikeWalkLee, expressing disappointment in the way the News-Press has reported on the county manager selection process.  Here's a link to our earlier blog post thanking BoCC for selecting Joyce Wilson.

Although we don't know Joyce Wilson personally, as part of BikeWalkLee's in-depth involvement in the county's planning processes over the past 4 years, we've been identifying other communities that are leaders in the fields of transportation and land use planning, complete streets, sustainability, economic development, innovative public involvement, and transformative leadership.  We've been sharing these best practices with Lee County staff and various advisory committees as the county considers lessons learned from other communities as it implements its complete streets policies and the County's first major rewrite of the comprehensive plan in 28 years.

Two of the communities with model plans and best practices that we've used as benchmarks have been El Paso, TX and Arlington, VA--both communities where Joyce Wilson was either the county manager (El Paso) or deputy county manager (Arlington), so we were familiar with what she had accomplished in those communities.  Having been part of the Lee County community effort over these past four years to move in new directions, we have a good sense of the leadership, skills set, and experiences that are needed to lead transformative change in Lee County at this critical point in time, and Joyce Wilson has demonstrated her ability to meet these challenges.

BikeWalkLee is looking forward to Joyce Wilson's arrival as Lee County's new County Manager.

 News-Press June 18, 2013

Wilson best county manager pick, so stop being unfair to her

 By Darla Letourneau

On May 26, News-Press President and Publisher Mei-Mei Chan wrote an excellent commentary entitled “At a time when we need leaders, here is a road map.” I, and others in the community, were pleased to see this community concern be articulated so well. The commentary clearly identified that we have significant leadership voids in our community just when we’re at a critical juncture in Lee County.

The leaders we select in the next few months and years will determine whether or not we can take advantage of the opportunities that have landed on our doorstep (e.g., Hertz headquarters and FGCU’s high-flying Eagles) at a time that our economy is starting to recover.

That leader is exemplified in Joyce Wilson, a candidate of the caliber and proven leadership experience that can help lead us into the future. That she applied for the Lee County manager job and has been selected unanimously by the Lee County commissioners to be the county manager demonstrates a broad recognition of Ms. Chan’s call for leadership.

Unfortunately, The News-Press has done a disservice to the community by not reporting on her many accomplishments and what she brings to Lee County.

Any city/county official who has been in a leadership position, especially those who have been successful in bringing change to their communities, will generate controversy. The job of the media is to look beyond the easy news of budding controversies to really understand what a leader has accomplished and to talk to community members who have been involved.

Instead, both the news and editorial staff have taken the easy way out: simply repeating the “dirt” they could find on the Web and providing no reporting on Joyce Wilson’s accomplishments. Wilson’s interview with Lee County Board of County Commissioners was very informative and clearly demonstrated her experience and top ranking for the job. Why not follow up on the points she made in that interview? Unfortunately, the article written about the interview didn’t report on what she had to say or provide a link to her full interview.

Our community is hungry to learn about Wilson and what she brings to Lee County. We expect the media to do their homework and interview players in El Paso, do some research, and share that with the readers. It should be a balanced picture. This is not the moment for The News-Press to play the gotcha game and to ignore the need to inform the public about this excellent prospective county manager.

As the Chan commentary states, we have a leadership vacuum and we desperately need to hire great leaders to take us to the next level. The News-Press needs to assist the community in making this happen by fair and balanced reporting.

Darla Letourneau is a resident of Sanibel.

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