bosshoggproudMention politics in Hope Mills, and one of the most common phrase combinations you will hear is something negative, followed by “that’s how it’s always been.” Maybe “what else would you expect?” would be a close second. People inside and outside the community have developed a sort of resigned contempt for the way things are. Boss Hogg doesn’t technically run Hope Mills, because there’s been a town board and some turnover over the years, so it works out more like a typical southern Good Ol’ Boys Network, but the effects are the same. To the world who has heard of “Hope Mills,” we are a small town with small minded leadership where the lake in the middle of town is empty. Hazzard With A Broken Dam is the image most get.

The image our leaders have constructed has affected the willingness of citizens to participate in the process. They think “Why bother? It’s not going to change.” So only a few attend meetings, only a few share their opinions on decisions. Most voters vote based on name recognition instead of knowing what the candidates believe or will do. When citizens do try to get involved and attend meetings, there are frequent, long chunks of time where the board meets in closed session, and there are public decisions made that ignore all precedent and disregard most public opinion. Sometimes board members who were mostly voted in because their names are familiar seem uninterested or angry in the process. Some on the board have expressed that they don’t feel the citizens deserve explanations of their thought processes. This distrust of the public leads the public to distrust the leaders, and the Hazzard imagery continues.
In 2015, Hope Mills is growing and changing, despite what sometimes seems like efforts to strangle it or feed it until it gorges itself. As we change, we can still be a small town (relatively speaking), but it’s past time for the small-minded mentalities of the past to be left behind. It’s past time for government (which is paid for by the citizens) to be open and accessible and accountable (to those citizens) throughout the year, not just for a month before elections. We need citizens who are willing to explain their decision-making and communicate to be involved. The dam should be fixed in the next year or two, so that image will be gone. As the publicly-shared opinions and trustworthy leadership becomes more prevalent, we will gradually get over the Hazzard With A Broken Dam image our past leaders have built, but we’ll never do that if we let things stay the same.

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