Based upon numerous conversations and four years of analysis regarding the state of leadership philosophy and practice in Naperville, I have some thoughts to share. In many ways, I’ve gathered that while Naperville has become a big worldly city, it still has a strong undercurrent of insular small town politics, which is both good and bad.
As we say in the South you don’t want to “give away the farm” but at the same time you want to avoid excessive inward-thought which creates barriers to new thinking and acceptance of new types of leaders. Inward-thought can also impair growth and prosperity as those who tightly clutch the reigns might ignore regional, national and even global opportunity. Social and political “silos” will stifle progress and prosperity.
Naperville is far from the same place it was 25 years ago and many would agree much of the change has been for the better. There has been a migratory socio-cultural urban shift which continues to evolve. In response to the “New Naperville” the past and present leadership of Naperville needs to find ways to leverage it’s new demographic and fresh leaders who have arrived in town.
Even more, it’s important that we not think of Naperville as a singular town anymore; rather, we must embrace the social evolution and continuing expansion of the dizzying geographic patchwork which Naperville has become. One major example would be the City Council. Though Naperville is now viewed as North and South with multiple townships spanning county and city lines, the City Council still consists of “at-large” members meaning there is no ward system or method for achieving balanced geographic representation. Even more, an at-large City Council creates an environment for political insularity. Imagine what might happen if the United States Senate consisted of 100 at-large seats which were decided by popular vote in a national election. Good luck Rhode Island!
It’s wonderful to take great pride in Naperville’s past and to celebrate local families spanning mutliple generations. At the same time, the next great chapter in Naperville’s history, if it is to be written, must include a new cast of community and business leaders with fresh new perspective, progressive-mindedness and global perspective.
What will fuse it all together? It is my deepest hope and dream that collaborative arts and imagination will become a more dominant force within our community. “Two” will always make the road shorter.
Let’s not become so insular that we exclude fresh passion, vision and talent from the next volume of Naperville’s history. SM