On November 17, members of The Network for Young Professionals gathered for the last edition of the 2022 Civic Engagement Series featuring a deep dive into community involvement.
2022 Network Chair Dee King moderated a panel discussion with her peers, all of which once held the same role as Chair of Springfield’s premier organization for young professionals. Attendees heard from Board of Public Utilities Secretary Kristin Carter, Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chair Britton Jobe, Local Issues Task Force Chair Marshall Kinne, and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board Member Darline Mabins. The panelists shared lessons from their own experiences and discussed the importance of being engaged in our community as young professionals.
Mabins discussed how the Chamber makes decisions that not only impact businesses, but also the community at large. When asked about her experience as a board member, challenged with doing her best to represent the variety of needs in the business community, she recommended looking at all the facts presented and observing who is impacted by the different outcomes of a decision. Mabins explained, sometimes decisions can be controversial, and when they are; it is our responsibility to listen to different perspectives and let people respectfully express themselves. We need to meet people where they are and bring them along slowly.
Kinne highlighted his community involvement through his role with the Chamber’s Local Issues Task Force. As Chair, Kinne is responsible for listening to both sides of an issue with an open mind. Ultimately, the task force’s recommendation on an issue is based on all the information presented and is mission-driven with the best interest of all Chamber members at its core. He explained, “Springfield is better because the Chamber is actively involved in the community. Every committee I’ve served on serves the mission of the Chamber.”
In reference to his leadership of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Jobe was asked about some of the most significant barriers to progress in our region. “I think Springfield – unlike a lot of our peer cities that we compete with – has had the good fortune of not having a crisis,” he said. “The challenges boil down to complacency, and it’s time we consider complacency a crisis.”
Carter added that while she doesn’t believe Springfield thinks big enough, the future of our region is exciting for young professionals. “I’ve seen firsthand how young professionals have a seat at the table, and you do not get that in any other community,” she said. “Young professionals have the ability to make an impact, and you can’t put a price tag on that.”
Jobe elaborated, “When it comes to progress in our region, we tend to confuse collaboration with the idea that everyone has to agree. We need to listen to everyone but know that not everyone is going to agree. Some people are going to be mad no matter what decision we make, but we have to make tough decisions for the betterment of our community.”
Mabins emphasized the need for young professionals to be at the forefront of progress in our community. “Most voters in Springfield that vote on public issues are 50 years old and older. If you take anything away from today, it’s please vote. If you want the landscape to change, you have to actively engage, and the best way to do that is to vote,”
Carter encouraged young professionals to get involved, but she recommended careful consideration of where to dedicate your time, passion, and expertise. If an opportunity is not an absolute yes, it’s a no. Additionally, Carter recommended that attendees develop a personal litmus test to determine which opportunities are right for them.
Lastly, young professionals were challenged to find their passion in the community and be active in making a difference. Carter said, “If you see something in the community that doesn’t make sense or you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask.” All panelists echoed this sentiment, leaving attendees with a call to action to stay engaged and make Springfield the community they want it to be.