Volunteers are due respect from municipal officials

Your Turn


Volunteers are due respect from municipal officials

Your Turn


There is one thing today experts in any field can agree on and that is that good leaders are hard to find. The struggle we see to find highly qualified candidates in politics is in front of us at all levels.

It’s not that we can’t define characteristics of people we want to have as leaders, we just can’t find many people who want to be in office who have them, which includes being able to build teams, collaborate and bring vision to times that are changing faster than anyone can keep up with.

And that is an issue in Manalapan, which was once rated as one of the best places in the country to live for reasons including having first class sports teams, a world class symphony with an international conductor, a parks and recreation department with programs that rivaled those found anywhere, a great school system, and an active community of volunteer support.

These assets helped Manalapan continue to grow, and with that, so did opportunities for residents to give back to the area where they lived, including through a new arts council.

Counter-intuitively, an increasingly successful committee that was beginning to have a positive impact in western Monmouth County was stifled and negatively affected by a recent reorganization initiated by the Township Committee. Given a choice of berate or collaborate, a disappointing decision was made to choose the former.

In just the last few months decisions made by leaders in Manalapan have led to the loss of the orchestra and its conductor, the highly successful director of parks and recreation, and various enthusiastic volunteers. There is little doubt that this breakdown stems from the present style of leadership and specific inconsistencies in support of the arts and volunteerism itself.

It’s important for a town to enhance quality of life in a number of ways to serve all its residents. While Manalapan was able to find appropriate ways to raise several million dollars for one important aspect, sports, it apparently found it was necessary to ask volunteers to find their own funding in other areas, including the arts, and to reduce the spending for an orchestra annually to what some towns spend for only one or two symphony productions.

So it was shocking, and certainly disappointing, to find that select leaders chose to chastise volunteers who successfully responded

their request to the best their ability and knowledge about how to obtain funding.

The towns in Monmouth County have a wealth of enthusiastic volunteers to draw on, but their ultimate effectiveness requires leaders who are secure in empowering people to be creative and innovative. When those in power lack vision and show a lack of confidence in a corps of volunteers, the effect is to discourage and demoralize, and in effect to shut down momentum.

The worst-case scenario, such as the one in Manalapan, is for people who have invested time and put their heart into projects in good faith to feel the rug was pulled out from under them because of political whims, and, perhaps, personal political agendas where distorting facts to gain popularity and power is considered acceptable behavior.

The popular saying today about there being no “I” in team becomes a problem when the “e” in team begins to stand for “ego” instead of “everyone.” Perhaps we should consider that we need to elect officials who serve the greater good rather than being self-serving – officials who earn trust and respect as well as giving the same to others, and remember that they were elected to serve the interests of their whole constituency.

Sandra Lippman, a resident of Manalapan, is a former member of the Manalapan Arts Council and currently volunteers with other associations and boards to help enhance the arts in the region.