Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year. Cool mornings, fog enveloping the mountains and the kaleidoscope of colors. As with each season, autumn is a time of change - we leave behind the long days of summer, swimming and shorts and embrace sweaters, bonfires and football. This year of course, each of the seasons have been met with unprecedented change - spring saw the usual flowers, warm air and gardens but this year we also saw the arrival of COVID-19, learning became virtual and spring break represented a health hazard versus much needed relief. Summer certainly included heat, lots of sunshine and a storm or two but also included business closures and economic distress unlike any seen before. This summer was also largely devoid of those long summer vacations replaced in the best of cases by outdoor activities such as hiking and biking - staycations ruled the day! This fall brings the usual changes noted above and also, this year - changes in our leadership.
We have already said our goodbyes to Council woman Djuna Osborne and soon will be doing the same for Anita James-Price and Michelle Davis. These three women have exemplified what leadership can and should mean and have done so with compassion, intelligence and effectiveness.
Djuna arrived on Council just a couple of years ago, a whirlwind of energy and determination. In her short tenure, she ensured the Council remembered its commitment to diversity and inclusion, has advocated for improving access to healthy food and promoted the interests of those struggling with mental health issues. Djuna is also a dedicated mental health professional and committed mother of two smart and energetic girls and it is for their future she recently made the tough decision to leave the Council before her term ends. Djuna’s commitment to this variety of noble causes will continue to positively impact this community and thus extend the reach of her COVID-shortened term.
Anita has been instrumental in ensuring our youth remain front and center in policymaking and in the actions we take - it is, after all, today’s youth for which we are building the current city. This work has included tirelessly advocating for Roanoke City Public Schools and stewarding the Youth Advisory Council and its twice annual youth summits. The children of our community have benefited greatly from Anita’s commitment and so too has our community.
Michelle has advocated for the interests and needs of a younger generation of leaders - one that embraces entrepreneurship, an active lifestyle and a creative way of addressing the needs of our community. Michelle’s involvement was essential in securing the Ironman competition - the same was true with the Go Cross cyclocross race and most recently, support for area youth with virtual learning in both the City of Roanoke and Roanoke County. Michelle’s varied background and experience combined with her enthusiasm and determination has served her, small businesses and the entire community well.
These three women have each brought intelligence, hard work and determination to their role as Council members. They too have brought compassion and empathy as they went about their responsibilities. It has been an honor to work for them and to aid in their efforts. Their absence from the Council will be notable.
With Change Some Stability
As I indicated, autumn is a season of change. Along with these three Council positions, yet another position, currently held by Trish White-Boyd and the Mayor are both on this year’s ballot. Regardless of the outcome of these two races, the Council will be different - there will be changes as there are with every election. One thing I am certain will not change is that whatever the composition of the Council, it will continue to do what is in the best long-term interest of the community and the people and businesses that call Roanoke home. In this ever-changing and unprecedented world it is nice to know that at least this will not change.
-- Bob Cowell