The Leadership McKinney Class of 2013 and program alumni welcomed Dr. Gary McCaleb, an author and former Mayor of Abilene, as he joined them for dialogue during their class session on Oct. 4.

Dr. McCaleb’s book, The Gift of Community: Reflections on the Way We Live and Work Together, with its timeless message of building community, has been used by the McKinney Chamber of Commerce’s flagship leadership program for nearly a decade.

McCaleb served nine years as Mayor of Abilene, was president of the Texas Municipal League in 1993, and served on the Advisory Boards of the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He has made five trips for the U.S. State Department, speaking to local government officials in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Iceland and Northern Ireland.

Dr. McCaleb, now the vice president of Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of their Center for Building Community, asked the audience to reflect on the words “city” and “community.” Both are important – “city” being tangible and measureable, “community” being intangible and “much more of the heart.” Both must be attended to.

McCaleb illustrated some of his top qualities of community through his travels across the United States with wife Sylvia, visiting cities in every state. Amongst those qualities were: 

  • Distinction – it sets you apart from everyone else. Pendleton, Oregon and the Pendleton Woolen Mills, six generations of heritage.
  • Collaboration – the key to community and creativity. Richland, Washington joined with the cities of Kennewick and Pasco to create a tri-city region, becoming better, stronger and more visible.
  • Circulation – Seaside, Oregon, a popular community with “walkability.” Too many of us have built our cities for automobiles.
  • Renewal – constant and never ending. Portland, Oregon, recognizing that their trees were aging, established a program to plant 83,000 new trees.
  • Celebration – “find ways to give applause.” Provo, Utah brought communities of all ages together with an over-the-top July 4th celebration featuring the Beach Boys.

Dr. McCaleb’s visit with the Leadership McKinney class, made possible by RMCN Credit Services, Inc., ended with questions from his audience and comments on community engagement.

  • Make sure to solicit ideas and opinions from all citizens.
  • Make committees and focus groups diverse.
  • Be intentional and incremental in grass roots efforts.
  • Realize that some things are better done in person.