To be a servant leader

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recently I had a wonderful birthday celebration which stretched out over a couple of weeks.  During that time a friend from Corpus Christi, who I had not seen in quite a while, asked my why people run for public office.  I prefaced my answer by saying my response may be an unusual one.  I ran for city council to be a servant leader to the citizens of Orange, Texas.
Servant Leader?  Hmmmm!!  Sounds like a contradiction of terms, an oxymoron.  From centuries past to present, the idea is not unique.  “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” Harry Truman said.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  says, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
And of course one of the most famous quotes of the past century by President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Thinking of servant leaders, I feel very privileged to work with the current city council and city staff in Orange, Texas.  In order to establish endearing homes, create healthy communities, build prosperous businesses, and develop worthwhile public entities, the leaders of Orange exhibit the servant leader qualities of empowering others, thinking long term, valuing diverse opinions, and acting with humility.
To me, the most dramatic examples of servant leadership in Orange, Texas, happened in the recent past immediately after Hurricanes Rita and Ike.  Area Leaders, citizens, families, businesses, and churches pulled together to assure the future of Orange.  And now we have a new pavilion, a board walk, a new senior center, and a new central fire station.
Working together still, we have submitted a TxDOT grant request to help us build a hike and bike trail in Orange, formulated a plan to improve all the parks, brought Bass Masters Tournaments and boat races to town.   And speaking of TxDOT, working together we have secured the funding and construction has initiated for modernizing and expanding IH10 to the Texas/Louisiana state line.  And with completion of IH10, new businesses have already expressed interest in coming to town.
As the Executive Director of the Southeast Texas Hospice, I have spent the last 35 years nurturing and watching that organization flourish and grow.  As a citizen of Orange, I have spent a lifetime as a cheerleader and proud citizen of this community.  My work in hospice and with the city has taught me, in the words of Jackie Robinson, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Mary McKenna is City of Orange City Council, District 4 and Executive Director at Southeast Texas Hospice