The limits of man

Our City

 A.F. Mayor Marc Beitia


“The limits of man?” I have skirted around the topic for weeks with fish stories, promises to listen with an open mind and praise for the vision of your new city leadership. Mine is not a unique perspective on the topic. In my lifetime man has been on the moon, learned to prevent several deadly diseases while finding cures for more, mapped the human genome, figured out how to make money without making anything, and how to make a fly rod out of things like graphite and boron rather than bamboo … I am not convinced the last two are progress. There have been volumes written about the limits. I would suspect billions of dollars made by those who fancy themselves as “the motivators of others,” folks who have actually done something incredible then tell others how to follow their example. Trillions of dollars have been made by those who have figured out how to capitalize on actually achieving and stretching those limits in the business and market places. So, here I sit with my morning cup contemplating those very limits in the context of city governance.

Growing up I had several role models, teachers of life, as it were. Most, not all, were watch and learn types, or “if you want it to stop hurting you will figure out how to do it right.” Better yet, “if you don’t want to keep fixing it, figure out how to fix it right the first time” types of mentors. I used to think my grandpa was the meanest old cuss on earth. Who gives an eight year old kid the “rough string” of horses? Isaac Erwin “Red” Griswold. If you were the new hand regardless of age that’s where you started until you proved yourself. There wasn’t a lot of turnover on the Big Springs. There were two really close calls, one with my back and the other with my head, but after I eventually learned to keep the forked end down and my mind in the middle; my limits expanded. Dad was the same way. He would tell me to do something that I may or may not have seen him do and expect it to get done right! Or right according to Frank. When I was about 10, he gave me a pair of freshly sharpened hand shears, put three ewes in a pen, and said before leaving, “I want the wool off and the teats still on when I get home.” No discussion, no nothing. Would life have been easier with a “here let me show you how to do that?” Yes, but it wouldn’t have sunk in like it has. The ewes got shorn, they still had their teats, and they did live; although it took a lot of iodine and a few stitches from me. To this day my method of shearing a sheep is totally unique to me. Which is what happens when we have to figure “stuff” out for ourselves sometimes. It is what tests and expands our limits.

The city council and I had our first visioning session a week ago yesterday. As I had suspected they set the bar high and are preparing to expand limits. I have learned a lot the “hard way;” but sometimes it is not the most expedient use of time. So I found a few templates to model the session after; one by Jim Collins (A Visioning Framework) and one by the City of Alexandria, Virginia. But, much of what we came up with was the result of thoughtful reflection and much work. We started by identifying our core values. Core values are enduring. They don’t change. They are the principles that guide our decisions. Six were identified as follows, in no set order: Vibrant, Historic, Inclusive, Integrity, Leadership and Innovative. These values were then melded into our vision of: Ours is a Vibrant, Historic and Inclusive community where Integrity, Leadership and Innovation make “American Falls the best place to live.” Within the vision statement is our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Its very nature will test our limits and will require in large quantities each of the six core values.

Now the core values and vision of the city might mean different things to everyone at this point which is why we are further defining each of the core values to give it a specific context. That task is not yet 100% complete, as a matter of fact while we have developed the values, vision, purpose and goals none have been “officially” adapted by the council and won’t be until January 15. However, I did want to give you a glimpse of what we will be working toward over the course of the next four years. I will share partial definitions of where I believe we are going based on our core values and vision.

Vibrant: American Falls is an exciting place to live, to work and to visit. American Falls is always looking toward the future and looking for ways to become better.

Historic: We preserve and celebrate our historical roots and diverse heritage. We understand and appreciate American Falls’ heritage.

Inclusive: American Falls is a friendly, respectful, and open community. People want to and are able to continue to make American Falls their home throughout their lifetimes.

Integrity: We honor commitments and keep promises. We are receptive to learning and change, although we do not seek simple answers to complex problems.

Leadership: We choose to be proactive rather than reactive. We are motivated and excited about the challenges before us.

Innovative: We believe our history should be preserved and celebrated but that our future starts today. We will entertain the fantastic and outrageous scenarios, see possibilities within the seemingly impossible, and honor the dreams that hard work may make possible.

“The limits of man?” My version: his, or collectively their, willingness to put thoughtful hard work behind dreams in making the impossible reality. Our dream, “American Falls, the best place to live,” will happen. While it may not be as simple or straightforward as keeping the forked end down and the mind in the middle, or getting the wool off while leaving the teats on, it can and will be done. I have every faith in our city council, our regular city employees and those with whom we contract, and in you the citizens of American Falls. We all share the same vision and ultimately the same dream and realize that as a collective all things are possible…

Until next week…

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