For most of my life, I have looked at the concept of productivity as being something that has a bottom line, or on some level was tangible or quantifiable. It’s kind of like the word “success,” which to some means profits, to others means purpose, and to many means a mixture of the two. It can mean the occasionally maddening mantra of “work smarter, not harder,” which is typically NOT something that I quote to myself when I am delivering Athens Now in the rain. One can dash through puddles only so quickly.
However, a couple of days ago I had a community experience that I considered to be highly successful, as well as productive even though no immediate or measurable results were discernible. One Wednesday, the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce sponsored its annual breakfast which featured all of our area legislators for North Alabama. Present at the temporary Chamber headquarters were State Senator Tom Butler, State Senator Arthur Orr, newly-elected State Representative Parker Moore, and State Representative Danny Crawford. Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon was also on the docket, but at the last minute Governor Ivey called him away.
Adam Smith of the News Courier, whom I consider to be the friendliest of all competitors, (as well as someone who has encouraged me on more than one occasion) was the moderator for the event. Adam always approaches these kinds of events with his signature dry sense of humor, and that day was no different.
So, the stage was set, and questions were asked of each legislator. They ranged from the possibility of passing a gas tax, to traffic nightmares, to human trafficking, to whether or not the State of Alabama should get out of the alcohol business and privatize ABC, to college-versus-trade school, to Medicaid, and more.
There was the requisite ribbing of Parker, who at the age of 29 is going to have to endure all kinds of “You’re-just-a-youngstah” stuff for a while to come, and he made fun of himself in a way that was healthfully self-deprecating, as well as showing he’s a man of substance. There were tales of Danny’s first two weeks in office, and things that just gave us a viewpoint of all of them that most of the time we don’t get a chance to see.
I caught Senator Orr out in the parking lot and introduced myself as we headed on to our respective next engagements, and he said something to me that codified why I thought the meeting was “productive.” As we walked and talked, he said, “I don’t like political-speak, I never have, and I am glad there wasn’t any.” What we saw were men who observed how they worked together, what their thought processes were, how and why they change perspectives, as well as colleagues who demonstrated a genuine respect and enjoyment for each other.
Were pressing problems solved? No. But what I saw, and what I felt was the conclusion of fellow attendees, was that we have a great group of representatives who have what it takes to tackle some of these gnarly issues and come up with some true solutions that are based on common sense. And, in our current political climate, that equals productivity on steroids.