Chamber of Commerce focuses on local government at annual dinner

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By Don Steen ~ Staff Writer • reporter@psci.net

The Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner meeting in the Celebration Room of Santa’s Lodge Thursday, March 14. The headline speakers of the evening were former Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb and current Boonville Mayor Charles Wyatt. Rockport Mayor Cathy Kirkpatrick intended to participate as well, but was kept busy in Rockport that evening as the common council meeting ran a bit long.

The mayoral discussion centered on the key strategies for success for a community leader in the modern world.

Wyatt emphasized the need for effective communication, a skill honed during his time with labor union meetings and lent itself well to public office. Despite political differences over the years, the Boonville city government has remained effective due to everyone working with the same foundation of information.

“Let them know what’s going on,” said Wyatt.

Lamb weighed in with the importance of wider community buy in to public projects. He emphasized the importance of believing in one’s community, and inspiring others to do the same.

“Fall in love with Spencer County,” he advised.

The mayors also spoke of the importance of working with neighboring communities. Wyatt pointed out that a neighboring county’s success will also draw more resources to surrounding areas as well. He encouraged public officials to be loud and proud of what their communities bring to the table.

“You’ve got to be the cheerleader,” he said. “I’m amazed at the things you’ve got going on over here.”

Lamb concurred, pointing out that while regionalism is the buzzword du jour at the state level, local cooperation has been critical for a long time.

“This isn’t a new concept,” he said. “This has been going on forever.”

Lamb pointed out that many residents will commute to nearby towns and cities for work, and vice versa. These links not only generate economic activity and revenue for both, but help inspire critical support in times of crisis.

For example, Lamb pointed out Sullivan is nearing the one-year anniversary of the March 31 tornado that killed three and caused major damage. He credited the support of the community’s neighbors with helping expedite the city’s recovery.

Moving on to the topics of child care and housing, Lamb led the discussion by emphasizing that those issues are increasingly falling under the scope of government responsibility. While these would be unorthodox priorities for public funding in the last century, Lamb argued that they are every bit as important as roads and other infrastructure.

He argued that the one thing a town or city needs above all else are residents and working adults. A parent with no child-care options cannot work, and a worker cannot move to a community without affordable housing.

Lamb stressed that while taxes are never popular, a leader can make the case for them so long as a return on investment is evident.

“If you don’t invest in yourself don’t expect anybody else to do it,” he said.

Wyatt noted that Boonville is certainly investing heavily, working with private developers to build new senior housing as well as parks and other amenities sought by residents. He noted that while many working-age adults commute, or work remote, they generally want to live in communities where such attractions are close by.

Both mayors emphasized that projects can take a long time to come to fruition, meaning that leaders have to be willing to start something that may not conclude during their term. Nevertheless, such investments don’t need to see an immediate financial benefit if it brings new residents and taxpayers to a community in the long term.

Read more on this story in this week’s issue of the Spencer County Leader!

Featured Image: The Chamber dinner held quite the turnout of attendees this year

(Left): Charles Wyatt speaks to the crowd of attendees; (Right): Clint Lamb speaks to the crowd of attendees

(Left): Kathy Tretter presents Jane Stout with an award; (Right): Kathy Reinke speaks to the crowd

(Left): Members of PSC pose with their award. PSC was the recipient of this year’s “Business of the Year” award for their successful installation of fiber networks across the country.

(Right): Members of the Spencer County Community Foundation pose with their award. The SCCF was the recipient of this year’s “Nonprofit of the Year” award.