For Release December 11, 2005

Get Engaged in Your Community

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Last Thursday evening I presided as chairman over my last Junction City-Geary County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) meeting. I've served on the MPC for the past nine years, the last several years as its chairman. This group is charged with reviewing annexations, rezonings, land use developments and provide recommendations to the Geary County or Junction City commissions. Sometimes the recommendations were easy to come by, other times they were difficult. Some decisions were popular, others were not popular. But the eleven people that serve on that commission took their job seriously and always tried to look at what was right and what was best for the community.

I will miss serving on the MPC, but other activities are going to be keeping me plenty busy for the next couple of years. I've enjoyed serving on that board because all eleven of us believed in what we were doing and took it very seriously. We were engaged in trying to help make Geary County and Junction City a better place to live.

Engaged is a word with many interesting meanings, but the one that I like best is comprised of one word; meshed. Communities don't just happen. Communities don't occur from people standing on the sidelines and throwing out money or suggestionst. For a community to be vibrant, growing, productive and nurturing to the people that live there, it requires the citizens to be engaged in the process. It requires everyone to be meshed, that is to be interwoven or interlocked with each other, and the community, striving to make it better.

Armchair quarterbacks don't do anyone any good. They sit around on Monday morning and describe in great detail what should have been done to have made it happen or enumerate all the reasons why it couldn't happen. There is another word for armchair quarterbacks. They're called critics. And as someone quickly pointed out once, they don't build statues for critics! Someone else once said, "I wish all those people who say it can't be done, would get out of the way of those who are doing it!"

We have an exciting time ahead of us in this community. We have many challenges and many issues to resolve. We are poised on the brink of incredible growth. Now you can think that it won't happen and you can name all the reasons why it won't happen, but that won't stop the people from coming here. And before you say that there's nothing for you to do, let me just say that there's plenty for all of us to do.

You don't have to run for public office or be appointed to any board. Just be willing to volunteer to help with something. Help a community organization, a school or a church. Be a positive influence or a positive role model. Smile and think about all the possibilities, rather than frown and talk about why it can't be done. I've noticed something about people. If you are absolutely convinced that you can't do something, you're going to prove yourself right. But if you think you can do something, and even if you don't quite make it, you've wound up further along than where you were before.

Everyone needs to be engaged in their community, of whatever size it is. If you live there, you are engaged. And only through your active engagement can you make your future into something that you like. Because if you aren't engaged, you're going to be living in someone else's future. Build your future, get engaged in your community!


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