Halloween isn’t usually a time when we celebrate our blessings, but it is a good opportunity to have some fun and appreciate our good fortune. I consider it my great good fortune to work with really good people at the City of Albany who take pride in their work and enjoy what they do. I decided to capture a few images of super heroes, scarecrows, bees, Winnie the Pooh, and Christopher Robin, plus a bee or two and some refugees from the ‘80s. My thanks to all who work for the City for your service and team work.
Community Development superheroes and friends
Albany has now hosted three sets of “International Fellows” through a program administered by the International City-County Management Association on behalf of the U.S. State Department. Our first fellows were Stephanie and Jennie from New Zealand, and they were followed by Sugeng and Seila from Indonesia and Cambodia respectively. The program requires our visitors to observe our practices and then write their thoughts and impressions about our efforts in areas that are of interest to them.
Vermon and Vathanak are currently working out of the Planning Division and sharing their experiences in blog postings at the following address: http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/blogs/blog/18/Professional_Fellows_Exchange_Program. The site contains postings from fellows working across the United States, and it’s interesting to read the perspectives of visitors who work in occupations similar to ours in their own countries. The common theme I’ve observed in the writings and through our experiences in Albany is gratitude. The fellows all seem very grateful to be here and anxious to learn.
I was talking with Vermon and Vathanak as we returned from a trip to Portland this week and was again struck by how much I have to learn from their insights. We haven’t had any discussions about technical issues (thankfully), but we have talked about leadership and what we would like to see in our own communities. We share many common values and goals for the future, despite the differences in our cultures.
My selfish motivations for participating in this program are the opportunities I have to show off our city and state, as well as the great conversations with enthusiastic young people. Positive attitudes are infectious, and seeing the joy of someone as we explore an old growth forest or hike down to the shores of Crater Lake inspires me to appreciate what we have here and not take this place for granted.
The fellowship program has also confirmed the kindness and generosity of City staff who have taken the time not just to explain their jobs, but also to serve as tour guides and hosts. Our Mayor has set a great example by giving guided city tours to all of the fellows over the past few years. Others may not realize that Mayor Konopa would probably do that for anyone who asks. Our visitors have been amazed at the commitment of our volunteer elected officials, and one commented that the reason people seek office in his country is to get rich.
The best answer I can give to anyone who wonders why the City of Albany has participated in this program is that I think it represents an opportunity to inspire and refresh ourselves. I need, and I think most people do as well, periodic reminders of what’s good in life, particularly at work. I hope anyone who may be feeling a little negative or cynical will take a few minutes to talk with Vermon and Vathanak. They will be here until November 6, working out of the small conference room in Planning.
I do not have a bucket list as such, but I have managed to visit 49 states in my life; and I would like to get to Louisiana to confirm through personal experience that Oregon is really the best of the bunch. I do know from experience that any place can be a great place to be if you have the right attitude. Oregon, however, has places that don’t even require a good attitude to make you feel you are blessed just to see them.
Crater Lake remains near the top of my list as the most amazing place in Oregon. A few months ago, I took a visitor to the rim; and the first question he asked as we looked at the lake was, “Is it real?” I assured him it was. I have seen the lake many times and never tire of its beauty or the feelings it inspires.
The North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River is less well-known than Crater Lake, but I was fortunate enough to live near it for a number of years. Its natural beauty is enhanced by my memories of teaching my younger children to swim in it, jumping off its rocks, or fishing for trout in its pools. The water is so cold that even in the hottest days of summer it burns your skin when you jump in.
All of Oregon’s wilderness areas are worth visiting, and I’m not sure I can name a favorite. Anyone looking for spiritual guidance can probably find it at one of the many lakes, creeks, rivers, mountains, or other special places in a nearby wilderness area. Some of my fondest memories are of hiking through forests or looking up at a mountain as the sunset casts a red glow across a glacier. A friend who introduced me to mountain climbing many years ago recently observed that it is a very selfish pursuit. I think he’s right given the worry it causes our families, but the experience also adds a dimension to our lives that would be hard to replace.
Our coast, canyons, deserts, and countless other special places make Oregon an extraordinary state. Years ago, a visitor observed that we are fortunate to live in one of the great places on Earth; and he hoped we would have the wisdom to preserve it. A recent hike into the Jefferson Wilderness Area confirmed we have done many things well, despite the inevitable mistakes. I told my hiking companion I didn’t just want to be in the wilderness that day, I needed to be there. I’m grateful for the decisions that have maintained these areas and hope we will all be inspired to maintain them for succeeding generations.