Serving in a leadership role does not automatically make someone a leader.
In the Nov. 7 election, Eastern Shore voters should select candidates who have an absolute commitment to community leadership and a desire to confront the most difficult challenges we face.
Leadership is important right now because the status quo is not acceptable.
It is time for Eastern Shore leaders to work even more thoughtfully and creatively for the future of our community.
We need to elect people who champion solutions to critical issues and have the ability to mobilize taxpayers and community partners around a shared vision.
The local candidates in the November election will need all of the qualities of leadership — credibility, communication, integrity, courage, influence, and many more — to overcome the Eastern Shore’s community challenges.
In Accomack County, where there is competition for five school board seats, three seats on the board of supervisors, and one constitutional office, this election has the potential of charting the county’s course for the next decade or more.
Even those elected officials without ballot challengers should take an unsparing look at their own leadership abilities this election season.
Fixing what is unacceptable
The Eastern Shore Post asked six questions of local candidates who are running in contested races. The answers will be printed in the Post in October.
The questions focused on arguably the biggest issues we face on the Eastern Shore and how they can be addressed.
— It is not acceptable that, every year, public schools on the Eastern Shore do not have certified teachers in every classroom.
— It is not acceptable that public schools on the Eastern Shore have such difficulty filling critical positions.
Our schools right now have openings for positions like reading specialist, school psychologist, counselor, translator, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, and more — even a month into the school year.
To recover from pandemic-related learning losses, our schools need to fill every student-centered position with a qualified, certified professional.
— It is not acceptable that there is not enough workforce housing for those teachers or other professionals.
— It is not acceptable that there is not a wider range of demographic backgrounds involved in the Eastern Shore’s various governmental committees and boards.
We need local elected leaders others will emulate. We need local elected leaders with the qualities — eloquent, creative, consensus-building, approachable — that we aspire to have.
We need local elected leaders who will relentlessly inspire and develop the leaders of tomorrow in every demographic.
— It is not acceptable for a family or business to locate in Worcester County, Md., because Accomack’s schools, amenities, or commercial climate are considered inferior.
It is mandatory for Accomack County’s elected officials to capitalize on Wallops-area growth by making the county’s housing, schools, and business climate better than its Maryland neighbors — and then relentlessly marketing the county’s excellence.
— It is not acceptable that inmates continued to swelter during the hottest summer on record in the Accomack County Jail, where they do not even have classroom space for educational programming.
Modern climate control and classroom areas are available at the Eastern Shore Regional Jail in Northampton County.
Not housing the inmates in Eastville denies the basic dignity and worth of those incarcerated.
Many on the Eastern Shore consider themselves Christians and may remember Hebrews 13:3 in the Bible: “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.” It is an edict our elected officials should heed.
Our judges, sheriffs, probation officers, and commonwealth’s attorney should insist on housing inmates in Eastville’s modern regional jail.
Those incarcerated today will be your neighbors tomorrow. Don’t you want them actively engaged in educational and re-entry programs?
Finding a way
Our elected leaders also like to say Eastern Shore’s issues — like teacher shortages and workforce housing — are national concerns and beyond our ability to remedy.
One candidate who received the candidate questions from the Eastern Shore Post called to say there wasn’t money available to address some of these concerns.
They seem resigned to accept what they feel they can’t change. But that has never stopped true leaders on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Many of the Eastern Shore’s greatest success stories came from champions among us who rallied around an issue and raised the money needed to address it.
Domestic violence is a national issue. Local leadership and fundraising created the Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence, filling a critical Eastern Shore need.
A lack of quality early-childhood care is a national issue. Community leaders’ efforts procured the money and created the partnerships that led to the opening of Children’s Harbor in Onancock.
Fundraising and leadership created the Eastern Shore’s three YMCA locations, the Boys and Girls Club, and a foundation at Eastern Shore Community College that funds scholarships. There are many more examples.
Two of the Eastern Shore’s greatest historical triumphs — building the original hospital in Nassawadox a century ago and the completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1964 — were accomplished by community leaders who found ways to raise money for critical projects.
They didn’t complain that there wasn’t a way. They found a way.
We need leaders of this rank to be our elected officials of today.