Hilary Hodge: I have to tell you something | TheUnion.com
Hilary Hodge
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Hilary Hodge: I have to tell you something

A couple of years ago, I sat in a large room with other nonprofit leaders from our community. All of us were there at the invitation of the Economic Resource Council (ERC) and the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

For me, the room was filled with people I call my friends, people I have worked with over the years.

I have sat in board meetings for local organizations who have contributed to the economic fabric of this community for decades. I have volunteered for fundraising events and for several community organizations and economic partners in Nevada County. I have sat in strategic planning meetings for several local organizations and for governmental bodies.

I currently sit on the board of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. I'm the secretary for the board of the Music in the Mountains Chorus. I'm the volunteer coordinator for the Gold Country Gleaners, an organization that provides fresh produce to Nevada County's food service organizations feeding the hungry. Professionally, I'm the executive director of Sierra Commons, Nevada County's nonprofit small business education center and co-working space.

With my announcement that I plan to run for office, also comes the announcement that this will be my last piece as a weekly columnist for The Union.

Since moving to Nevada County, I have volunteered with SYRCL, Sierra Harvest, the Grass Valley Downtown Association, the Nevada City Film Festival, the Center for the Arts, and for countless fundraising events for many other organizations.

When I sat in that large room, the people around the table were prepared to discuss the economic well-being of Nevada County. I was surrounded by colleagues. The heads of the chambers of commerce were there. Most of the major local nonprofits were represented around the table. Many of the local major events had point people with seats at the table.

When the presentation started, we were asked about what we could do to help bolster economic development in Nevada County.

The room was filled with Nevada County's economic heavyweights: events, environment, arts, agriculture, entertainment, tourism and business. We had been helping to bolster economic development in Nevada County for eight, 14, 20, 35 years, depending on the organization. The chambers of commerce have been around supporting economic development in Nevada County for more than 100 years.

All of us at the table had sponsored classes, events, tours, and advertisements. We had promoted our community in new and innovative ways. We had offered tours and packages, collaborated with other community and business members, and created innovative marketing strategies. All of this in spite of the county's collaborative tourism budget being reallocated.

Many people at the table felt insulted. Many of the organizations and agencies represented had been promoting Nevada County with little or no budget or support. Collaboration and cross-promotion was facilitated by the organizations at their own expense of money and time. The county and its contracted economic wing, the ERC, had no infrastructure or plans to support local efforts already in progress.

I have thought about that day a lot. I have thought about the people in that room and how important their contribution to our community and our economy really is. I have thought about the way they were dismissed by our local government and how important it is that our local government's economic plan include local people, local businesses and local organizations.

As a nonprofit executive in our community, I know that hard work makes a difference. I know that people and organizations doing good can make real, tangible change in a community for the better. I also know that public policy and private-public partnerships can help accelerate the good being done. When local talent is supported by local government, the community wins.

It is with this in mind that I have decided to run for office in Nevada County. As The Union's Publisher Don Rogers pointed out in his op-ed last week, there are many of us who shout our politics from the rooftops but only a small handful of people who are actually willing to step up and run.

I have decided to step up and run. You can expect some big news from me in the future.

In the great American tradition of the press holding our elected officials accountable and monitoring politics in our great nation, it is with bittersweet sentiment that I transition from columnist to candidate.

With my announcement that I plan to run for office, also comes the announcement that this will be my last piece as a weekly columnist for The Union. But this certainly isn't the last you'll hear from me.

Hilary Hodge lives in Grass Valley. Contact her at hhodgewriter@gmail.com.