“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford
Saturdays, Oct. 16 and 23, are critical days for Citrus County’s next act. With rapid growth upon us, it’s time the County codified a strategic plan and vision for what we want to look like in the next five to 50 years. To get this plan underway, we need your help at two town halls in October, to determine what you and fellow residents value in our community; what we need to protect; and, what we need to improve.
But wait, hasn’t this been done before?
It surely has — in the form of the citizen group Citrus 20/20 — originally formed in 1995 with periodic vision checks following until 2018. Some action plans were completed by Citrus 20/20, others with assistance of the community. Where did Save Our Waters Week come from? Citrus 20/20. Likewise, formation of an environmental education support group and obtaining a grant to purchase the property that now houses the Academy of Environmental Sciences. Countywide recycling events grew from Citrus 20/20, as did development of the Manatee Eco Tourism Association (META).
I daresay that the spectacular rebirths of Inverness (Depot District) and Crystal River (Main Street) have more than a few underpinnings in the thinktank that was Citrus 20/20. We have some seriously good stuff happening in our little county we call home.
Citrus 20/20’s participant list reads like a who’s who of leaders encompassing economic development, eco-tourism, growth management, infrastructure, education, arts/culture, natural resources, and social/community needs. I personally hope everyone involved in Citrus 20/20 and the newer group, Citrus 2030, will participate in one of the town halls this month.
We want all Citrus County residents to let us know what you value, what you want to see in our future.
Some people scoff at the Suncoast Parkway rapidly changing our world, because currently it doesn’t bring much traffic. But growth is already happening at a record pace, and the rate will accelerate. Considering the enormous changes spurred nationally by the pandemic, in the form of increasing telework and migration to more rural areas, the likelihood of continued rapid change here is even greater. Citrus County is an ideal spot for people looking to escape the cities, and we need to avoid being run over by progress. Instead, we must make good decisions now to shape a successful future for a county we can continue to love.
So — what do you love about Citrus County? What sets us apart from other places? Do we value our history as commercial fishing villages on the west side, and hunting/fishing/camping on the lakes of the east side and throughout the county? Do we value our locally owned shops and restaurants? Our eco-tourism? The purity of our waters, and the large amount of green space we enjoy? Do we want more clean industry to locate here, with higher-paying jobs, to balance our over-reliance on lower-paying service jobs?
These are the types of questions we must ask ourselves, and then hold up every plan and decision we make against the shared and codified vision that comes out of these two town halls. Visioning is not rocket science. However, just as you ensure lumber is straight and true before trying to build a plumb structure, creating these touchstones is elemental to creating a vibrant, beautiful Citrus County of tomorrow.
There’s a useful technique promoted by Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman for making better strategic decisions. It’s essentially imaginary time-travel, in which your team is split into two groups, one envisioning unmitigated disaster, and the other roaring success.
In my new life as a county commissioner I practice this, envisioning my tenure causing great harm or great success. I imagine leaving behind an unbalanced economy, more strip malls with throwaway architecture, snarled traffic, and no walkability. (Disaster!) Then, I imagine clean waters, small-town charm, community-minded values, and development that encourages higher-paying careers, social interaction, exercise, and the arts. (Success!) That’s my definition of success, but I’m only one of roughly 150,000 residents.
Getting this vision right needs you. Will you help?
Holly Davis is the County Commissioner for District 5. Email her at email@example.com.