Here is something that I had hoped would happen and that never did happen. I never got the chance to serve on council with Mel Rothenburger. When I was first thinking of running for council in 2005, Mel was still Mayor Mel and the prospect of working with him was exciting.
I admire Mel’s work as mayor for many reasons. He hosted the KamTalk conference early in his term, one of the finest community conversations ever held in Kamloops. He shepherded the Tournament Capital initiative through a referendum that actually saw citizens vote in a tax increase (!) to help pay for the incredible new sports, health, and wellness facilities so many now enjoy.
Every great leader will fail sometimes. When Mel failed in my eyes, I felt he did it with a great amount of gusto. Some out there will remember a relatively short-lived Mel-led initiative called Technology Kamloops. I can’t exactly remember how many different subcommittees and working groups were envisioned but I think I still have the 18 by 24 poster somewhere in my filing cabinet.
And renaming the Overlander Bridge after Phil Gaglardi. Wow. On the same day as a provincial election. Wow. Walking that back must have been torturous.
(I’ll be seeing Mel at a reception this evening, and he may take the opportunity to “set me straight” on these recollections, but I have been faithful to my reactions to each at the time).
But, again, what both of these examples showcase to me is that Mel dreams big. And I admire that. It makes me think that Mel has not been afraid of failure. Another very admirable trait.
Mel and I have not agreed on everything, maybe even on most things. He always, however, was fair in giving me space to air different points of views on issues of community concern. As editor of the Daily News, Mel has prompted me, and I am sure many others, to think through my own ideas and opinions.
So, on the week he retires from editing newspapers, I would like to pay tribute to a truly great Kamloopsian. Someone who has taught me a lot about what it means to be a contributing member of our community. Thanks so much, Mel. Heartfelt congratulations! Those of us coming up stand on the shoulders of giants.
Mel’s retirement and the recent retirement of Randy Diehl as CAO at city hall have got me thinking quite a bit of the nature of leadership. I also had the tremendous and nerve wracking honour of being part of the final hiring committee for our new CAO, David Trawin. This experience most likely also contributed to my mental noodling.
What does Kamloops circa 2012 require from community leaders? How are expectations the same and how are they different from when Mel started his career?
A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to a leadership philosophy called “servant leadership,” developed by a gentleman named Robert Greenleaf. I have been reading Greenleaf’s book on servant leadership and would recommend it.
I would be most interested in hearing about other leadership resources, concepts, or ideas. It seems like we live in times that are both more complicated and more connected than ever before. I am not entirely sure if this is a time of transition, of tipping points, or of something else.
What I do strongly feel is that, somehow, in Kamloops, we have been blessed. We have had strong, effective leaders for a long time. It is up to all of us to live up to the examples set by Mel, Randy, David, and so many others.
Arjun Singh is a Kamloops City councillor. He can be contacted at email@example.com.