A significant difference

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 48 views 

Recently received a letter from the Leadership Fort Smith Alumni Association requesting nominations for the 2010 Jack White Leadership Fort Smith Award.

“Our Jack White Leadership Fort Smith Award recognizes an individual whose leadership has made a significant difference in our community. This award is one of the premiere leadership honors in our region,” noted the letter from the association.

Being somewhat of an advocate for better leadership, the notion struck to do my best to help garner recognition for a person who has made a “significant difference.” This pursuit resulted in a review of past Jack White award recipients. We’ve had 19 since 1990. Was somewhat shocked to learn — or be reminded — that a key leader in the successful effort to expand Lake Fort Smith has not been recognized with this premiere leadership award.

Think about that for a second … a prime leader in the effort to expand Lake Fort Smith — one of the largest, if not the largest, public works projects in Arkansas — HAS NOT been recognized for such a once-in-a-century accomplishment.

We now have a lake with a 28 billion gallon capacity (significantly more than the 8.4 billion gallons in the previous Lake Fort Smith configuration) that serves more than 205,000 people in the region and could serve more than 300,000 by 2050. We recently learned that the investment is already paying off, with the enlarged lake now expected to meet demands to 2060 — a full 10 years beyond original estimates. When’s the last time you heard of a government project proving more efficient than originally promised?

So, let’s think about this again … one of the prime leaders in the successful regional effort to expand Lake Fort Smith, which provides THE essential commodity for socio-economic growth for at least the next 51 years, HAS NOT been recognized.

What’s more, this person was instrumental in overcoming stiff status-quo opposition and personal attack to gain public support and voter approval for the $200 million lake expansion. And what’s more again, this significant lake expansion also delivered one of the newest and nicest state parks — Lake Fort Smith State Park — in Arkansas’ parks system. Certainly there were a handful of other folks who had key roles in this watery effort. But it’s not unreasonable to believe the outcome may not have been as favorable without this person’s force of character and broad political and business connections.

The LFS nomination form requests the inclusion of six examples of a nominee’s past and present community involvement and a list of “specific ways” the nominee has provided leadership that “resulted in positive change or actions.”

Frankly and honestly, it seems unnecessary to include five other examples or specific comments about leadership traits for this nominee. All I have and all you have and all the more than 300,000 people of this region have is an assurance of clean and abundant water at reasonable rates for the next 50-plus years. If that lacks sufficient weight, then I bow to the rigid formality of bureaucracy and the irrelevance it eventually acquires.

So, let’s think about this again … one of the prime leaders in the successful effort to expand Lake Fort Smith, which provides THE essential commodity for socio-economic growth for at least the next 51 years, HAS NOT been recognized. If the Jack White award is truly meant to recognize a person who has made a “significant difference in our community,” then this person who took a leadership role to expand Lake Fort Smith deserves significant consideration in the 2010 award cycle.

That’s not to say other folks are not deserving. It might have slipped my notice that a regional resident walked across Lake Fort Smith to turn a just a few million gallons of our precious water into a world-class cabernet while simultaneously rescuing millions of Americans from the horror of 24-hour news channels by giving them back their ability to think critically. Or maybe while I was watching the Razorbacks miss field goal attempts, a regional resident wrote a private check to fully fund Interstate 49.

Unless you’re sipping a dry red wine of mysterious origin or working to coordinate concrete pours between Alma and Texarkana, my request is that you send a letter — postmarked before Nov. 6 — of support for this person instrumental in expanding Lake Fort Smith to:
Leadership Fort Smith
c/o University of Arkansas at Fort Smith
P.O. Box 3649
Fort Smith, AR  72913-3649

Please let them know that you have 28 billion reasons to believe that the Jack White Leadership Award should soon be presented to the former chairman of the Fort Smith Regional Water Supply Task Force, Mr. Emon A. Mahony, Jr.

Seriously. Please send the letter. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

P.S.: Am respectfully requesting that the fine folks at the LFS Alumni Association accept this little essay as a formal nomination for Mr. Mahony.