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Expectations and experience
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Last week a friend and I were in Athens on business and decided to stay for dinner. We invited her nephew and friends to join us. We had no expectations other than a few students enjoying a free meal. We were impressed with a diverse group of young adults providing us with interesting conversation that turned into a delightful evening.

Adding to my surprise, one of those friends who joined us was the daughter of a childhood friend. She had graduated from Vanderbilt and was accepted into the doctorate program at University of Georgia at the ripe old age of 22. These were older students working hard to achieve their goals to provide the quality of life that will meet their expectations. The first step is education.

The motivating factor for their success is expectations. Their perception was that their parents' expected them to excel and that the bar was set high with pressure and unrealistic standards. I explained this is the perception of each generation, one shared by my children until they married with a family of their own. As parents, our perception differed; it is our job to help our children reach their optimum potential, to be the best they can be, preparing them for the challenges life has to offer. My daughters now raising their children have admitted they understand my expectations helped them develop into competent and responsible adults with the skills to navigate life through the promises and challenges it brings.

The fields of study for these dedicated students are as diverse as the individuals themselves; however, all had expectations to meet or exceed the quality of life they experienced in their parents' homes. Their future is full of potential and opportunity. All want careers that provide an outlet for their interests; for example, one wants to travel and will obtain Teaching English in Foreign Lands Certification before leaving school to facilitate this desire. These expectations were no longer those of their parents, but rather the expectations they are beginning to form for themselves. These include a quality of life with time for family and friends as well as a career. Their challenge is to find a way to marry their experiences with their expectations.

This evening started me thinking about your expectations and how they align with those of your elected officials. Newton County is changing. Although growing at a slower pace, this growth brings a diverse population to our county. We have white, black, Indian, Asian, Latino and multi-racial residents. We have socio-economic levels from affluent to poverty. Our land parcels range from agricultural-rural to urban densities. Our commercial and industrial businesses consist of entrepreneurial incubators and major industries. The jobs provided vary in education requirements from a high school diploma to a Ph.D. Older generations value privately owned land; younger generations expect more public greenspace.

My experience as Chairman indicates expectations are as varied as our population is diverse. Sometimes the individuals with the greatest expectations live in the most rural or remote parts of our county. The affluent are divided equally between those willing to pay for better services and those with expectations of more for less. Some expect entitlements while others are willing to pay for stronger public safety and quality of life services, such as libraries or parks. In rural areas, some want less government and fewer services, while the more densely populated areas have higher expectations for more urban services. My leadership chose a proactive path protecting our assets while preparing for a sustainable future; others choose a reactive posture. There is no right or wrong answer here.

But like my young friends, we must find a way to marry our expectations with our experiences. You have at your disposal the power of local government.

Your elected officials are supposed to represent you, whoever you are, whatever your expectations. Communication is the key to understand the process and develop realistic expectations for all. During this election season, contact the candidates to discuss expectations. Not everyone will have his or her expectations met but it is important to let your voice be heard.

Kathy Morgan is chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners.