This column is going to attempt to inspire you to make your voice heard and to get involved as Lebanon comes together to chart its course for the next 25 years through our Lebanon 2040 Community Vision.

I will make the case for our planning process and call you to action as we build the home of Lebanon’s future generations.

A home is a source of safety and a place you and your loved ones to rest and grow. A good home shapes your family’s future, providing the shelter and the sustenance needed for you and your loved ones to prosper. Let’s take a second and imagine Lebanon as our house and our neighbors as our family, and picture us as a family starting to renovate our house to make it our dream home.

Would we begin construction haphazardly, knocking down walls without knowing the end goal? My guess is that you’re picturing a family sitting down together, carefully discussing and developing our desires and goals for our dream home, and then having an architect draw up those goals into blueprints to guide the construction. The architect, with blueprints in hand, would then ensure the workers, contractors, plumber, and electrician all do their part towards making our dream home a reality.

Lebanon is about to begin renovating our home and shaping our future, and it’s time to design our dream home. Our architect is Gary Marks, and he is ready to draw up our blueprints and get to work. But we’re lucky, our architect doesn’t want to draw up his own plans for our home, nor the council’s- he wants our home to be the best of all of our hopes and dreams.

Our architect and our council are actively working to get your input and are striving to make it as easy as possible for you to be involved. They’ve even hired a consulting firm to reach out to the community to find your voice and hear what you have to say. We are about halfway through Lebanon’s Visioning Process that will culminate in a Vision Statement and strategic plans that will guide how we shape Lebanon for the next quarter of a century.

The consultants reached out to Lebanon in many ways. There was an online survey at asking about our hopes for Lebanon’s future and for what Lebanon means to us, as well as paper surveys collected throughout town. We completed a series of several Listening Sessions spread throughout the town and geared towards getting real input from real community members. All in all, 538 different Lebanon voices spoke out about our dreams and fears for Lebanon.

I was asked by the consultants to be part of Lebanon’s Visioning Process Sounding Board. We reviewed the data and listened to what those voices said about Lebanon. The consultants showed the Sounding Board what Lebanon had said our values are: 126 said "Small Town", 85 said "Community", and 45 said "Friendly". When asked to describe Lebanon in one word: 44 said "Home", 25 said "Friendly", and 14 said “Community”. Their fears: 85 said "Drugs", 59 said "Growth," and 27 said "Crime." When asked to list focuses for our vision: 43 said "Library", 40 said "Business," and 36 said "Downtown."

Where did we picture ourselves in 2040? Well, I don't have numbers on this one, but the words they listed for us were: small town, business friendly, education, family oriented, safe, and healthy. From these, the consultants identified six key Focus Areas for our Vision: Connectedness, Health and Safety, Community (amd Economic) Development, Education, Downtown, and Arts and Culture.

These focuses take into account far more than just how businesses are doing or what our graduation rate is- they identify the core values of Lebanon and what makes our friendly town the tight-knit community it is. The Sounding Board was charged with interpreting these results and translating them for the consultants, and together we came up with a second round of questions that will sharpen the focus. These questions will bring clarification on what we want for Lebanon, questions like: what does “Small Town” really mean? To what degree is it Lebanon’s job to make its people feel safe? What type of growth should Lebanon encourage?

Each focus will have its own a strategic plan, guides for how we can protect and promote those ideals we all share, to keep Lebanon true to itself as our community grows and prospers. The end result will be a comprehensive set of blueprints that encompass all of our hopes and all we hold dear. These strategic plans will be the base of all of our town’s goals and plans, and you can make sure Lebanon is going down the right path by getting involved in this pivotal process. Then, with our architect and blueprints in hand, we can begin construction.

There is still plenty of time to get involved and get your voice heard. The consultants are currently shaping our questions into a second survey for Lebanon to voice its opinion on. This second round will be available in April and May on as well as on paper and by meeting with the consultants. The consultants will be at the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce's Business Expo on Tuesday, April 14th to meet with community members and business owners. They will also hold a community meeting on April 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club, and they will meet with the Lebanon City Council in May. Then the Sounding Board will hold one final meeting on May 12 to come up with the final Vision before it is presented to the City Council in June for adoption.

Please take this opportunity to make your voice heard and do your part in shaping Lebanon's future. Now is your chance to make our town the Lebanon you know it can be. Now is your opportunity to mold our town into the perfect community for our people. Get involved and get those around you involved before the chance to be heard is gone. Our brightest future comes from all of us being heard and all of us working together towards our unified Vision.

But our work doesn’t end there. These blueprints aren’t just a plan for our governance, but the designs for our whole community’s future. That means it will be on all of us- every business, every club, every person- to follow the blueprints we designed together and to work together for Lebanon’s future. Only together can we design and build the house that will protect us from life’s storms and provide the shelter and sustenance we need to move Lebanon towards our bright future. Let’s sit down, get our plans drawn up, and get workin. Together we can make our dream home a reality.

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