Josh Bergeron: Goals in county’s declaration worth repeating elsewhere

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 3, 2020

In late 2016 and the first half of 2017, Rowan County Commissioners Chair Greg Edds and Vice Chair Jim Greene took on a countywide tour of sorts.

Their goal was to get all cities and towns to sign a declaration of interdependence that sought to bring government officials together around some common goals. But the chief goal in the document was to “secure a positive future for all of our citizens.”

“I think folks are looking to us not as parents but looking to us to lead,” Edds said during a commissioners meeting in June 2017. “That’s what we’re trying to do — to lead by example and also to try to get out in front of the community and show that this county needs to take its rightful place in this region in education, in the economy and in every way we can think of.”

The document was mostly symbolic — something the only two dissenting votes in the county, Craig Pierce and Kenny Hardin expressed — but it set some important standards, including working together to align core goals and beliefs and accelerating opportunity for all. It was part of a series of steps the new crop of county commissioners took during their first terms to put the community on a path where cooperation was more common than conflict.

Now, one portion of the document shines a little brighter than others because of the dense divisiveness that state and national politics seem to prioritize. It’s not hard to spot ways in which the country has grown more divided because of the ways politicians at all levels conduct themselves.

“This declaration recognizes that we have a unique opportunity to define our future together in new ways, and while we have far more that unites us than divides us, we believe we need trusted partners to thrive in an ever-changing world.”

In 2020, a year we’ll all be telling our grandchildren and great-grandchildren about, politicians at all levels should, at a minimum, pursue the declaration’s goals of accelerating opportunity for all, the truism that there’s more to unite us as Americans than to divide us and the reality that it’s critical to align efforts to secure a positive future “for all of our citizens.”

Pursuing those goals means adopting principals like transparency as core beliefs because communities, states and the country are better places to live when people have reliable information about the world around them.

It means working to tear down structural barriers that stop hard-working people from advancing in life at the same rate as their peers who are working just as hard.

Among other things, it also means building consensus, collaborating and embracing bipartisanship in a time when cooperation between people with differing views is usually difficult to find. Sure, elections have consequences, but it’s better to build a diverse coalition than just securing a majority.

Moving toward goals espoused in the declaration will not happen before winners of November’s election are sworn into office.

But candidates would be well to work to unify our country, state and community and heal divisions instead of deepening divides that already exist. Voters can do their part by making those values priorities when choosing candidates up and down their ballots.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.