Happy New Year, Shelby County

Published 11:07 am Tuesday, October 9, 2012

By MICHELLE JOHNSTON / Guest Columnist

In the spirit of those special people in our lives who celebrate “Christmas in July,” I have the incredible urge to put a party hat on and sing a line or two of Auld Lang Syne at this time of year. My dad has always reminded me of the age-old adage, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” In a sense, I guess we all have license to establish our own New Year’s Day when the mood strikes, regardless of the month or date. So, it may not be too far off the beaten path to consider this a good time for another “new year” celebration. Yellow school buses begin to run their routes, our favorite teams take the field, and our summer days shift to fall routines. Excitement, anticipation and optimism are the hallmarks of this season.

Many new beginnings are sprouting in Shelby County. At the University of Montevallo, we anxiously awaited the arrival of new students and the return of familiar faces. As families move boxes into residence halls, young adults begin to forge new friendships, and the faculty and staff prepare for the start of classes, there is always an undeniable sensation that envelops the campus but is hard to completely describe.

A new class of Leadership Shelby County is underway. As this impressive program has been doing since 1995, Leadership Shelby welcomed 30 individuals who share a vested interest in the future of our communities. I had the pleasure of attending the kick-off event for this new Leadership Shelby class at Jefferson State Community College in mid-August, and there it was again — that intangible feeling in the air that is difficult to put your finger on at that moment.

Less than two weeks later, the Greater Shelby Chamber of Commerce launched the Shelby One campaign, another initiative under way that qualifies for “New Year” acclaim. As leaders shared the details of the five-year plan to continue to move Shelby County forward in front of a packed house at the Pelham Civic Complex, there it was again — that mysterious sense gripping all of us, yet no one attempts to define it.

What is this contagious vibe — this ever-present undercurrent — that keeps us moving and looking forward? I believe it is a unique combination of two key elements — hope and commitment. This is the kind of hope that lies in great things to come, in opportunities to seize and partnerships to build. This is the kind of commitment based on a shared vision, attainable goals and determination to accomplish unprecedented achievements. Happy New Year, Shelby County!

Michelle Johnston is the senior vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Montevallo.