Hillsborough Cool Cities as Organizational Development

While I am thrilled Hillsborough became North Carolina's eighth Cool City tonight, I might be even more happy with how we used this process to expand some folks' Sierra Club involvement while getting other people involved for the first time.

OCG Chair Bernadette Pelissier and I decided at the December ExCom that we would like to work to make Hillsborough a Cool City.

The first key thing that allowed this process to unfold successfully is that Bernadette acknowledged she had too much on her plate to lead this process herself and gave me the go ahead to identify some project leaders. She stayed fully informed throughout but was comfortable with letting others take the lead.

Hillsborough is in the northern part of Orange County, away from Chapel Hill and Carrboro where most of OCG's members are. But we did have two folks from outside the immediate CH/C area, Anne Lindsey and Melissa McCullough, who had been very helpful in the past with our political endorsements. I asked them to get together with me and talk about the Cool Cities program.

We did that the first weekend in January and they were happy to take on the leadership role for the project. It turned out that Melissa had two great friends, Holly Reid and Rich Shaw, who are amazingly involved with local issues in Hillsborough, are committed environmentalists, and were also friends with the Mayor.

In early February the five of us got together at Holly and Rich's beautiful historic home near downtown Hillsborough and made plans for moving forward. We decided the best thing to do would to be to try to get the whole Town Board to approve it, but to try to get the Mayor's support first.

Holly and Rich set up a meeting with the Mayor in late February, we explained how Cool Cities worked to him, he told us about some of the great things Hillsborough was already doing, and he said he would be happy to put it on the agenda in early March.

That meeting was tonight. Holly and Rich, as the only two actual Hillsborough residents in our crew, presented the resolution to the Board and gave specific suggestions of things it would be good for the community to move forward on. Melissa also pitched in with some good info about what a world wide movement there is on global warming right now, and how many resources were available to help Hillsborough in working toward the goals in the Mayor's Agreement.

We achieved several things through this process:

1) Got the group more involved in a part of its territory where there hadn't historically been as much activity as some other parts.

2) Got two folks who had been involved in the past with group activities to increase that involvement to a leadership role, in which they both shined.

3) Formed partnerships with community leaders who have not been involved with the Sierra Club but are still strong environmentalists and have vibrant civic lives.

4) Made Hillsborough a Cool City!

I think Cool Cities is the perfect outlet through which to achieve these kinds of success stories in other groups to expand the scope of Sierra Club activity. And while I might not be able to travel to those places to help out as much as I was able to in Hillsborough, it's still something I'm available to be actively involved in if there's a serious commitment to making it happen.

Thank you so much to Melissa McCullough, Anne Lindsey, Holly Reid, and Rich Shaw for their work and to Bernadette Pelissier for her support. I am really looking forward to having a celebration of this event sometime in April. They have been a great crew to work with.

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