By Emily Stonehouse
The high road may be lonely, but it’s the only direction to success.
Those were my thoughts as I watched 150 people berate acting CEO of HHHS Veronica Nelson at a public town hall on June 29.
The event was held on the last day of school, which is why I giggled when Lauren Ernst, the communications lead for HHHS, went over the basic rules for the session; raise your hand if you have a question. Please, only one person speaking at a time. Respect everyone in the room.
Basic rules we all learn in kindergarten. I thought it seemed juvenile that the room filled with adults needed the reminder.
I was wrong.
And I understand that the heat that filled the room was caused by more than the wildfires that burn around us. It’s a sensitive topic. A bruise on our township that doesn’t seem to be healing.
But what I didn’t understand was how this community that’s been demanding open communications and transparency, just weren’t open to either that day.
With the exception of the very occasional call of support for Nelson, she was met with hostility, anger, and murmurings that drowned out many of the legitimate answers she was trying to deliver.
I have spoken to other people who were in the room since the event, and maybe the jeering was limited to the corner I happened to be sitting in. But this was my experience.
As a reporter, I kept inching closer to the podium to try to actually hear her. Trying to get the story right. I couldn’t hear over the clusters of people speaking over her, swapping reports that they heard on Facebook that trumped anything Nelson was trying to say.
Minden, as a community, we more than anyone, should know how frustrating it is to not feel heard.
We were given an opportunity to be heard, to ask questions, to communicate. That’s what we’ve wanted all along. And Nelson made it clear that she has been in this role for two weeks. I have yogurt in my fridge that’s older than the amount of time she has been in this job. She’s new, she’s trying, and she’s listening.
And just because she’s not giving us exactly what we want to hear right now, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to listen. Just because we felt bullied, doesn’t mean we need to bully back. We cannot fight fire with fire.
By the end of the town hall, Nelson was in tears. Some folks saw this as a sign to reel it back, to try to show their support. Maybe they crossed a line. Others tittered on, not dropping the hot topics, not giving her a moment to be human.
The momentum behind the grassroots reopening the Minden ED was beautiful because it was all about community. About giving everyone a voice. About working together. And I agree wholeheartedly; Minden does need an ED.
But we need to take the high road to get it.
So the next time we have something to say, let’s try listening to what others have to say around us, and actually focusing on the betterment of our community – looking forward instead of back.
Because the rearview mirror serves no purpose on the high road.