Thornton’s speech touches on need for civic engagement

Published 6:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2019

On Wednesday, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton gave his annual State of the City address during the LaGrange Rotary Club’s weekly meeting. This was Thornton’s fifth such address to the city, and this speech was marked by optimism for the city’s economic future, as well as a call for increased civic engagement and leadership development.

Thornton spoke on a wide array of subjects, touching on public safety, beautification efforts, economic development, education and housing, amongst others. The underlying current of his speech was a firm belief that the city is moving in a positive direction, and that new leadership needs to be identified and groomed to continue the city’s positive momentum.

“I do believe that we need to invest more time and energy into leadership development,” Thornton said. “We are where we are today because of great leadership in the past, but we need to encourage our residents to be more engaged in their local community.”

While the city has been the recent beneficiary of more than $1 billion in total investment since 2016, with companies such as Century Tire, Jindal Films, Great Wolf Lodge and Sewon all pledging to invest more than $150 million in this community, Thornton has been and was quick to remind the community that these investments are the result of historically strong local leadership,which is always needed across sectors.

“The state of our city is already strong, and it is getting better all the time,” Thornton said. “The strength of our city that we enjoy today is a result of decades of good leadership, sound management and a collaborative spirit between the city, the county, the business community, our philanthropic partners and our residents.”

In the midst of Thornton’s update on the city, this point rang especially true. LaGrange has seen much economic development as of late to go alongside a consistent drop in crime and a steady stream of community-focused events. This is something that local leadership should take pride in. However, unless the city has a civically-engaged population, continued growth will remain challening.

The city will always need those willing to give of their time and talents to ensure a continued bright future. We should be thankful for the leadership we have, while also looking for ways to serve ourselves.