In addition to publishing thoughts from our program directors in the 26 Knight communities, we’re also reaching out to other local civic leaders. These remarks come from an email interview with Debra Hensley, a community activist and insurance agent in Lexington.
What jumped out at you from the results of the study?
I am not surprised by the more positive responses relative to education. I am not surprised that we old people feel more attachment and loyalty to our community. I am not surprised by the perception our community is welcoming to (white) families.
What do you consider to be the key takeaways from the findings?
Passion is alive and well in this community; however, we must find ways to nurture, develop, and identify the passion that exists in those who feel the least connected and loyal to Lexington. It is one thing to love your community because it has a beautiful landscape, lots of team sports for the kids and spectators, or to be passionate about UK Basketball, horses, our KY bourbon. How about people who have other passions? How do we tap into the human desire to feel heard and to feel connected and thus a sense of belonging? Give people a voice and you will get plenty of passion. We need to listen more and talk less. Lexington is a “polite” community. We do not like discourse and when we do, there is a sense of “us against them.” If we are open to the ideas, criticisms, dreams, and desires of the young adults who are most affected by this report, we will unleash a synergy of the collective that will create better results.
Do the findings reinforce the value of any local initiatives?
Yes, I believe the projects that are the most effective are those which have had a high degree of community engagement. Recent examples: The Lyric Theatre (finally it will happen), bike paths, Legacy Trail, Town Branch Trail, East End Small Area Plan (recommendations only, the challenge will be implementation).
What questions does the study raise for you?
I do believe this report underscores the tremendous opportunities for stakeholders, community leaders, and decision makers.
Great schools, affordable health care and safe streets all help create strong communities. But is there something deeper that draws people to a city – that makes them want to put down roots and build a life?