Column/Citizens, leaders need to rise together to build Selma

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 27, 2007

This is my first ever letter to the editor. My family and I are long time residents of this community and I am blessed to own a business here. We lived on the corner of Mabry Street and Furniss Avenue for 20 plus years. Four years ago we moved north of town due to the deteriorating conditions downtown.

I am not a politician. I do not wish to be. I am a husband, a father and a business owner.

My business is commercial/industrial construction and development. It depends solely on economic prosperity and a good business climate in the community. Without it I have to look for business opportunities elsewhere.

Email newsletter signup

For six straight years up until two years ago we never left the city of limits of Selma. We constructed well over $20 million worth of business right here in Selma during that time.

The past two years we have not been so fortunate. We have had to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Eighty percent of our volume has been in counties other than Dallas during that time frame. Business is good – it’s just somewhere else and my people have had to travel.

A lot of good people here have spent a great deal of time and money on promoting economic development in this area. Our EDA, the Chamber of Commerce, Team Selma – they all expend a tremendous amount of time and effort on behalf of this community and they should all be commended for it.

My firm works in a 100 mile radius of this area and no community we have worked in has a team as professional and determined as ours. Of this we should all be proud.

That’s what makes what is, and what has been going on in city government so hard to swallow for those of us who really care about this community and make our living here.

Recently, I participated in a work session with the mayor and city council of a community to the south of here. I am involved in the potential investment of some $7 plus million (private) in this community and my group had some hard questions for which we needed answers from the city.

The mayor and council were wrestling with issues many of which were similar to those facing us here in Selma. Yet what struck me was there was no fussing, fighting, grandstanding, name-calling etc.

These (yes – white and black) people sat in a room together with the press and civilly discussed issues and events and did so in a constructive and positive manner.

While they initially did not agree on all elements of an issue, they worked together until they reached compromise and focused on the positive aspects of the project.

It ultimately was a win/win situation for the community and everyone involved. We came away very impressed with the people we met and worked with and more importantly their attitude. It was “can-do” not “me first” and as a result of this different type of attitude, we quite probably are going to invest a great deal of money in that community.

It struck me on the drive home last night that Selma had more resources and more potential than the community I had just met with and was preparing to invest a lot of money in.

We have a better economic development team than any one in our region – we can successfully complete with anyone.

What the city of Selma does not currently have is both citizens and leaders who act and behave like adults and share a common goal of community improvement.

This is truly sad. I would so much rather invest my money and my time in this community than one to the south. But the truth is I really don’t have a choice.

Economically that choice was taken from me and from others by the antics and behavior of a few. I read with great interest the editorial in Tuesday’s paper about the mayor’s budget including some costs for development of a theater.

The writer was saying that he or she did not think that the city should be involved – that they should entice a private company that would be willing to make an investment in our community.

The economic reality is that no company in their right mind would do so at this time and the mayor knows this. This fact is not only telling, it is downright chilling and we as a community need to say “Enough already!”

If the climate and culture in Selma would change – then I would be one of those people or companies who would very much like to do a theater or other development here – I would do it in a minute. But there has to be a lot of changing before that can happen.

I have been in this business for over 25 years and had some degree of success so I feel qualified to tell you – that truly Selma has it all- all the pieces and parts – we just don’t have the leadership that is bold enough and at the same time humble enough to stand up and say that the politics of the past are no longer acceptable and we are going to go down a different road- a road of cooperation and concern for each other, of mutual self help and preservation.

Until that happens, it will continue to be tough here. When that happens Selma will flower and bloom – the likes of which we have never seen. I look forward to and pray for that day.

My late father had a thing about sayings … always having one appropriate for whatever I had done wrong. The one that hits me between the eyes right now is this and I sure you have heard it before, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” We need a rising tide of maturity, civility and reasonableness in this community to lift All of our boats.

In closing I would suggest that we all recognize the fact that finger pointing time is over – the solution to all of this starts with us, each and every one of us.

When we expect more from ourselves then we can and should expect more from others.

We have no one to blame for this mess but ourselves. We, as adults, are all accountable for our community and to our children. It’s time we all took that responsibility seriously and acted accordingly. We are all in this together, whether you like it or not.

With all due respect ladies and gentlemen, it’s about time.

Tom Bolton


Cooper Brothers Construction Company, Inc.