An Independent Community Committee

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The community committee preparing to address downtown revitalization in Farmville must remain just that-a community committee.

Fully independent of any entity or organization.

Self-controlled.

Not a Town of Farmville or Town Council committee, even though there are Town Council members on the committee.

Not a Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce committee, even though the chamber has representation.

Not a Longwood University or Hampden-Sydney College committee, and they also have seats around this table.

Not a this business or that business committee.

A community committee.

Nothing more, because nothing more is needed.

Nothing less, because nothing less will do.

Which is clearly the intention behind the committee's creation. The challenge, however, will be for each entity and organization to keep its hands off the tiller and allow the committee to find the way by following its own guiding star. Even the appearance of assuming control, or direction interference, would make the committee's job more difficult.

No community is without its “turf” issues and personality/ego dynamics and these must not come anywhere close to the committee's table. Or even seem to come anywhere close.

Only full autonomy will allow the committee to clearly confront the challenge and make effective recommendations for downtown revitalization that will be regarded by all without a jaundiced eye. The recommendations must not be seen as having ulterior motives or driven by narrow self-interest.

There is no reason to expect the committee won't maintain its full independence but it is best to understand the possible pitfalls at the outset.

Complete independence was clearly pronounced when Town Council gave the committee its first two members-Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr. appointing Ward B council member Sally Thompson and At-Large council member Tommy Pairet. “We're not really running this committee. We're part of it,” said Ward A council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon, who said the committee could add or subtract members as it wished. At-Large council member David E. Whitus said the committee should “elect their own leadership.”

That was the spirit behind the Town's appointments to the committee, which came during Town Council's August meeting which saw Longwood University professor, and Farmville resident, Chuck Ross say during the public comments period that the issue is “bigger than the council. It's bigger than the chamber. It's bigger than the downtown merchants.”

Bigger, yes, than any of them individually.

But not bigger than everyone together.

The committee approach was also soundly and resoundingly endorsed by those attending last week's roundtable discussion on downtown revitalization hosted by the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce.

So the journey begins together.

As it also must end.

-JKW-