“Let the word go forth from this time and place…that the torch has been passed to a new generation… proud of our heritage…”
With these words, newly elected President John Kennedy proclaimed in his January 20, 1961 inaugural address that a new generation of Americans had assumed the mantle of leadership.
As I sat in the back of our Dec. 9 Plant City Commission Workshop, those words kept playing through my brain as I heard the Downtown Vision Plan of our Plant City Main Street and the proposed plan of Plant City Manager Bill McDaniel to implement that vision.
To move Plant City into the future, McDaniel’s plan included wayfinding signs through downtown, a strategic landscaping plan, an alley project and string lights on Evers Street, and a design concept and string lights in McCall Park.
Our city’s leaders all agreed the new plan is fine, but what is also new is the generation of leaders who sat in the front of the auditorium and who will implement the plan over the next five or 10 years. That new generation has ages under 40 and names like Moody, Thurston, Miller, Austin, Frey, Jimenez, Haney, Sarria and Hollenkamp. They have replaced the past generation of community leaders like Brewer, two Smiths, Larson, Miller and Edwards.
Twenty years ago, the commissioners who would have sat on the dais in front of the auditorium included names like Mike Sparkman, Mary Yvette Thomas-Mathis, John Dicks, Randy Larson, Bill Dodson and Rich Glorioso. Today’s elected commission leaders are Mayor Rick Lott and Vice-Mayor Nate Kilton. Commissioners Sparkman, Mathis and Dodson provide that all-important knowledge of our heritage and history. As McDaniel articulated that implementation plan, he sat in a chair previously held by city managers like Waldron, Sollenberger, Horwedel and Herr.
Together, the commissioners who served over that period and the managers who implemented their projects have set a strong example for our new generation of leaders and our Downtown Vision Plan. Ranging from recruiting an international softball organization and converting a vacant baseball park into a national center for softball, leading in funding a new Plant City YMCA and the new Trinkle Center, constructing a new City Hall and expanding an already excellent Recreation and Parks program, that generation of leaders kept Plant City growing. That generation of leaders created a set of new revenue-generating activities which paid off the mortgage on the chamber building and gave Plant City a new nickname: “The Events City.”
Some of our leaders who led us when the millennium clock turned in 2000 have passed on, some have retired, some are serving in other roles and some, like Sparkman, Mathis, and Dodson, are still serving Plant City. They provided a base to build on for the leaders of today’s generation of Plant City leaders and, if they could, I am certain the leaders of that 2000 generation would say to the current generation, “Well done! Now keep working.”