This episode covers what happens when local leaders in rural areas come together to go after a specific goal. I’m excited to dive into this with two individuals who are working every day to help rural communities accomplish great things.
I first talk to Hickman County, Kentucky judge/executive Kenny Wilson (2:53). Hickman County has just under 5,000 people, and the county seat, Clinton, has around 1,400. Area business is primarily in the agriculture industry, and a major push for industrial hemp is underway.
Wilson, who has lived in Hickman County all his life, wants to see more good jobs in the community. He raves about the young people the school district churns out and wants to see more of the kids move home and find good jobs. He says a big part of the reason is selfish: he wants his own children and grandchildren to be close by so he and his wife can enjoy them.
Recently, a piece of land with a lake was deeded to the county for one dollar. Wilson talks about how leaders came together to transform the ground into a community park, complete with a Farmer’s Market Pavilion and a fully stocked lake for fishing.
We then take a broader view of local leadership with Cynthia Nikitin (18:51), who is the director of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design. This organization provides grants to rural communities for rural design workshops, bringing local leaders together to create plans for things like building renovations, town centers and downtown layouts. The workshops allow leaders to create comprehensive plans they can use to raise funding to make their projects a reality.
Nikitin points out the importance of forward-thinking rural leaders who can bring people together, establish a vision and work collaboratively to make it happen. She talks about the importance of investing in our own communities and understanding that change will always be constant, and we must get ahead of that change.