Near year’s end, I review all my professional experiences. This reflection includes big and small “wins” and mistakes that can be remade as lessons. And because my work world is a dynamic mix of policy and politics, there is a lot to unpack.
This dynamic is about how I and our members connect around shared interests and mix things up with contacts in different worlds. And I believe if we stay open to it, we can grow from our interactions, not shrink from our differences. What do I mean by this?
Ohio’s current political climate of GOP / conservative domination of state government (House, Senate and Governor’s office) and Big City mayors with a Democratic/progressive agenda can and does create friction. This friction has forced me to find more ways to find a “sweet spot” of shared interests to explore. But first, we needed to expand our conversations.
Whether we toured a facility with a conservative state legislator or a progressive city council member, our members found a way to connect. When our members explained their challenges with the workforce (finding CDL drivers, attracting next-gen employees, etc.) suddenly political identity didn’t matter. What mattered was an honest exchange of ideas.
The conversations we had throughout the year brimmed with real solutions to our challenges. There is incredible work underway at the Statehouse on “tech cred” and CDL scholarship legislation designed to benefit both my members who need skilled workers and Ohioans ready to acquire new skills for more opportunities. And urban mayors and councilmembers listened to our challenges stepping up with local connections to community action agencies, economic development leaders and offers of help.
We also discovered another area of mutuality among our members, state legislators, and local policymakers—challenges around plastic waste. After announcing a beverage industry initiative called “Every Bottle Back” we have actively engaged in many conversations about our goal to reduce our industry’s plastic footprint. This work will include using less plastic and investing in efforts to get our bottles back so we can remake them into new ones.
I am very excited to build on our relationships at the statehouse, DeWine administration and all facets of local government in key areas of Ohio around “Every Bottle Back”. While everyone agrees that increasing recycling rates and reducing plastic waste is imperative, there are many disagreements on the best approach (local city ordinance to ban certain plastics or a statewide approach). Our commitment will involve tangible investments to improve the quality and availability of recycled plastic.
So, as I review 2019, I see my members continuing to choose dialogue over debate. And I challenge myself daily to listen around my own biases and habits of thought to find real connection across differences. With all that 2020 promises, I am hopeful that we will rise to any challenge through a sincere desire to address shared problems together.