Leadership and Water by Chamber Chairman Denise Deal
The thoughts going through your mind after reading this headline may be ”or the lack thereof on both counts.” Let me first start by stating that I am not weighing in on the raging water war. I do not have the expertise nor do I begin to understand the unmerciful banter going back and forth between our elected officials, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, state department heads and almost every living breathing soul in Georgia – especially Hall County. When you get to the bottom line, we are at a severe water deficit due to the lack of mercy from Mother Nature and our own inability to be more conscientious conservationist of the liquid gold we call water. We are all guilty in some way of not conserving when we should have and, more importantly, for waiting until now to begin the process of developing a water management plan.
Why is it that we often reach such severe times before we begin to study our habits and break the bad ones? When do we reach the point of prevention in lieu of fixing the problem? How do we prevent a crisis rather than, pointing the finger of blame, literally. No single individual or entity is to be held totally accountable for our current water situation. We are in one of the worst droughts this state has ever encountered. When the rains return (soon and lots of it, we hope), the lake rises and water restrictions are forgotten – will we forget and go back to our old ways? I certainly hope not, and I have three little reasons reminding me every day that we need to plan for the future. We need to keep in mind that decisions made today will affect the decisions of generations to follow.
What we often lack during such monumental catastrophic situations is leadership – the kind of leadership that asks the question ”Why?” Why have we continued to do things this way, and why have we not considered the unthinkable? Water scientists have pressed for years the notion that we were on a dangerous course. Let me stop for a moment and be fair. This lack of leadership is not just in the area of natural resources. We could sit down together and come up with a huge list of issues like transportation, education, healthcare, and others that are destined for failure, yet we do nothing to change direction.
Leaders with vision to change our course on several of these fronts are out there, however, we often do not support these individuals or organizations. We listen momentarily and then decide that will never happen in our lifetime. We have one of those “lifetime occurrences” right now. As we proceed in identifying solutions, we must be mindful of many great and wonderful leaders from years past who sat around a table and said “what if we ” do the unthinkable. Imagine where our country would be today if those monumental leaders had not thought the unthinkable or unimaginable. Where would we be today? As severe as the drought is now, imagine how dire it would be if our predecessors had not had the vision to create Lake Lanier in the first place.
Now, if you have stayed with me up to this point, I thank you because I am finally getting to my real point. A group of individuals from VISION 2030, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Board and Gainesville/Hall County leadership traveled to Chattanooga, TN several weeks ago to visit with representatives of the River City Company and community leaders from Chattanooga who played integral roles in the revitalization of the City of Chattanooga. Those leaders along with the River City Company came up with the unimaginable and unthinkable back in the 1980’s and dared to pursue the “what if” and now they are reaping the benefit and having the last laugh.
Our community has the very same opportunity before us with the VISION 2030 initiative. We have very difficult issues facing our community and our state. Will we have the leadership necessary to make our big dreams become reality and go beyond saying “what if?” and instead say “where do we start?” I think we do. If for no other reason than for the future we are preparing for our children.
Water and the lack thereof is today’s catastrophic issue. Tomorrow it may be healthcare and/or transportation – let us as a community of leaders set the pace for others to follow and begin saying ”why not?”
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
-Edward Everett Hale