SHEDG election comes at crucial time

The annual Sweet Home Economic Development Group general meeting next Wednesday, March 13 is a crucial one for Sweet Home.

In this meeting the Board of Directors won’t go into executive session (which simply means anyone who is not a board member isn’t supposed to be present while sensitive issues are being discussed).

It’s also an opportunity for SHEDG members to fill five of the 11 seats on the board (see page 1).

These are both good times and tough times for SHEDG. In the last few years, the non-profit community organization has hired an economic development director who has helped it begin to focus on its primary purpose for existence: leading “efforts to enhance and promote thriving, diverse economic development in the Sweet Home community,” as its mission statement states. That appears to be happening.

We won’t go into a litany here of what we see being accomplished, because the remarks by Chamber of Commerce Chair Brandi Hawkins on page 7 of today’s issue aptly summarize much of what is happening in our area, things that dovetail very nicely with the intent of SHEDG’s mission statement.

The fly in the ointment, though, for board members is the financial difficulties experienced by the Oregon Jamboree, the organization’s primary funding mechanism, which has run in the red the last two years we know about, 2010 and 2011. We still don’t know how last year’s festival did because SHEDG’s leaders have not been eager to divulge that information.

It’s no secret, though, that the existence of the Willamette Country Music Festival has created competition for the Jamboree. Then, plans to put on a second, smaller indie-rock festival this summer had to be postponed for a year because the right artists weren’t available for the right price. Difficult times.

The community needs SHEDG board members who have a vision for our future and how to make it happen, and who understand that when they make decisions on how to run the Jamboree, they represent the people who live around the concert grounds, the people who put up with the noise and traffic and other inconveniences that are necessary to put on a profitable festival, as well as the country music fans who volunteer at and attend the event.

SHEDG’s board makes those decisions on behalf of all of us. It’s all of our future that’s at stake in those meetings.

So the people making those decisions must be visionary, bold and wise. They need to be able to think outside the box, to be able to ask and answer hard questions, to be able to effectively discuss difficult issues to make decisions. They need to be able to negotiate without bad blood – participatory decision making.

In the face of difficulty, Sweet Home residents have historically shown backbone and the ability to work together. It happened in the early years of the Jamboree, when things were also tough, and it can happen now.

When SHEDG members vote – and you can become one by paying a $15 membership fee as reported in our story), they need to remember that people with determination and the ability to work together effectively and cooperatively can still best address difficult challenges, and they are the ones who should fill the empty seats next week.