It’s often been said that in order to have a community, there must be unity.
If that rings true, Fairmont City Council is on its way to reaching that goal.
In what could be considered an historic move, city council voted 8-1 this week to hire the city’s first-ever female city manager.
Even the one council member who voted no – Barry Bledsoe – went on the record and publicly said he would support Valerie Means to replace interim city manager Bruce McDaniel.
“I absolutely will support whoever we end up hiring, including Valerie Means. I will support her 100 percent,” Bledsoe said.
And while be declined to say who he believed was the best person for the job, Bledsoe’s comment speaks of unity.
The Times West Virginian clearly understands that making a decision such as selecting a new city manager is difficult, hard work. There are a lot of gods and masters to please. It came down to three choices from a pool of qualified candidates.
And kudos are not in order simply because Means is a woman. Yes, at face value, that appears to be a positive, open-minded step.
Mayor Brad Merrifield said it best, “They weren’t narrow-minded at all,” referring to his fellow city council members.
The real takeaway here is what city employees said about Means last week when she and her two competing finalists met with department heads in the city.
Another nugget Merrifield offered sums it up: “My point was that if she built that kind of relationship with department heads in that short of a period of time, that’s an accomplishment.”
Now comes the hard part.
In the coming weeks, if not days, the city will negotiate a contract to hire Means. And, hopefully, city council members will maintain the excitement that has arisen surrounding Means’ hiring and pending arrival here in Fairmont.
Then, it’s time to put the resume to work and help lead Fairmont to a path of becoming a better place to live, work and raise a family.
There’s a lot of rolling up of sleeves that has to be done to make the city better.
City Council recently appointed members to the new Human Rights Commission and residents are waiting to see how and what work this new body will tackle.
When she visited Fairmont, Means indicated such a commission would be a positive thing for Fairmont.
But, the list of goals is larger than any HRC. Fairmont, now described as being ‘in the middle of everywhere,’ has to know what it wants to be. Better yet, leadership has to arise to move the city to that place. But, there is a blessing and a curse to leadership — not everybody will love what the leader wants to do.
Desires to have sidewalks along Locust Avenue and Country Club Road are great ideas, but those projects could be considered small potatoes.
Let’s think bigger than that.
Where’s the public discussion about job growth and economic development? Where’s the public discussion about opioid abuse? Where are the public discussions about making Fairmont a healthier, more inviting city that people outside of ‘the middle of everywhere’ begin to talk about?
This city could become the envy of North Central West Virginia if we aim higher and think outside ourselves.
In order words, let’s truly put unity back in to community.