Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

A New Year

Many local organizations need your time and service

I’m starting my 10th year of writing these Beacon columns. I retired from politics and began this adventure of life. I chose the farm, to grow food and community.

Some days I’ve regretted the decision to leave public service. Yet life feels more enjoyable farming and writing.

Occupationally, people still sit at our table and want to talk politics as we go downtown out to eat. Mostly, I listen or say I’ve retired from that service. They don’t believe me. I don’t blame them.

Today, middle aged, I listen and talk with younger citizens, many of whom are fascinated by service. They get it. They’ve got good ideas. It’s our job to make society better.

Long ago, after watching some Whitefish locals on the city council, I got involved on public boards like the local planning board and housing authority. These boards help meld public policy into how our community grows. Grow we will — the writing is on the wall. The people are coming to town.

The newbies descending upon our valley will hopefully become just as much a part of the fabric of our community as the rest of us. They’ll bring fresh enthusiasm, pockets full of cash, a love of place, and their desire to keep our community together, to build a more just and prosperous society.

In Helena, a decade and a half ago, I debated much public policy. Some good stuff got done to protect our public lands and to assure that old-timers can keep living on their land.

Today I chair a couple of boards, one that meets annually in Helena and another in Whitefish that helps local people to recreate and conserve our public lands.

After decades of serving on public boards, I see that the unifying theme of getting stuff done is basic humanity. It takes a lot of good people plenty of time and effort to make some decent stuff happen.

Many people throughout the valley already volunteer on boards. Some are appointed by elected officials to guide our valley into a new decade. Other locals sit on the boards of the nonprofit organizations.

Board members have a fiduciary obligation and bring the organization’s mission to the community. Together, a board determines what services the organization provides the valley. Those programs may focus on things like food, music, arts, health care, education, recreation, conservation, or work to get innocent people out of jail.

The list of programs provided by our valleys nonprofit organizations span the spectrum. Many of these organizations do great work. All of them have people serving on their boards to keep the mission going.

You know the ones you like the best, the ones you trust, or the ones with a history of success. A lot of them are headquartered here in the valley.

I gave money to more nonprofits last year than ever before. I hope you did likewise. A little cash from a lot of people goes a long ways to do good in the valley. 2020 presents plenty of opportunity to keep the efforts ongoing.

But aside from the donations of your hard-earned cash, many local organizations need your time and service, either volunteering on a program or serving on the board of directors.

Serving on a board sounds scary. It’s not. Trust me, after decades of doing that exact kind of board stuff, I know you can do it. You should serve. Our charitable organizations are ready for new blood, fresh ideas, and professional attitudes.

If you, like me, want to keep our towns and valley great places to live, to raise our families, and run our businesses, then serve on one of the number of boards in our valley. 2020 Flathead needs you. Deep down, you know it.