Brian Carlton: Buckingham, you can’t win unless you play the game

Published 2:12 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The numbers weren’t great. Buckingham County has 16,824 residents, but out of that number, only 26 felt the need to show up. When the Commonwealth Regional Council recently held a community meeting, one focused on what the county’s future should look like, you could fit everyone in attendance in a nice, large bleacher section. That’s not a compliment. It’s also not how you play the game. 

You can’t win if you don’t play the game. That may seem either like common sense or just bizarre logic, but it’s true. If you don’t get involved, if you don’t voice your opinions in public, then who’s going to do it? You can’t trust that “someone else” is going to step up and present your ideas, done in the same way. There’s not always someone else around. And even if someone else does speak up, who’s to say they believe the same things you do? 

It’s curious. We’ll line up out the door and down the block for tickets to a major concert. We’ll show up in droves, packing out buildings in fear of seeing something change. On nothing more than a rumor that your friend heard from a cousin’s wife, we’ll demand that an entire major political body resign. We’ll stand and point fingers at everyone from supervisors to school board members, accusing them of things without any evidence on social media, in print or in conversation. We do this, and yet we won’t spend even half that time brainstorming about the future of the place we call home. 

Email newsletter signup

It’s not all about accusations. I can’t stress this enough. In order for Buckingham to have a future, there needs to be a vision, a positive one, detailing where to go as far as progress and how to get there. But in order to put together a vision, people have to show up and make clear what they want that to be. 

Let’s be realistic here

And yet, while I’m encouraging people to get involved, there’s a flip side to that. We need to be serious. When throwing out ideas, remember we need to be realistic. I don’t mean get involved and start rolling out crazy requests. 

So many ideas I’ve heard involve millions of dollars. This would go for new sports complexes, completely remodeled schools, new football fields and even stadiums for sports, concerts and comedy to take place. People walk right up to supervisors and hand over a list, fully expecting at least one of those projects to be completed within the year. But again, where’s the money coming from? After all, Buckingham doesn’t have $12 million just lying around, unused. Who’s going to fund a stadium build when we’re all still waiting for the state to come up with a “rough draft” version. 

The wishlists keep coming in. People want a new park, or faster internet. They want more doctors, more restaurants and more shops in Buckingham County. They want rail cars to be used as bridges and a tire amnesty day. 

But right now, even the most well-intentioned wishes remain just that, because very few will speak up to the actual people in charge of the projects. We’re great at making speeches on Facebook and Instagram, but the reality is, nine times out of 10 that’s where the conversation ends. I’ve covered several comprehensive plans through the years, both in Virginia and NC. This is pretty much one of the least attended programs, no matter what city, county or town you live in. But remember what I said at the beginning? You can’t win if you don’t play the game.

You say you want a better future for Buckingham. Now’s the time to explain what exactly that means and how you get there.

Brian Carlton is the managing editor for the Farmville Herald and its sister papers. You can reply to Brian through a letter to the editor by clicking here.