Earning Respect, Improving the Community
This chapter examines the role of formal and informal leaders, including local public officials and heads of voluntary organizations, in small communities' efforts to adapt to changing social and economic conditions. It considers how residents confer respect on leaders and how leaders draw on this respect in performing their roles. Leaders discuss why they take on civic responsibilities, the gratifications and frustrations involved, and how these activities serve as stepping-stones for public office in larger venues. Although it is sometimes suggested that small towns lack interesting cultural amenities, local cultural leadership is particularly important, and figures prominently in communities' understanding of their distinctive history and identity. The chapter also shows that small towns are laboratories for social innovation, judging from leaders' descriptions of new technology, electronic communications, sustainable energy projects, and efforts to rebuild following natural disasters.
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