Harold’s Blog: Wrestling a Gorilla

From the blog of  Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through December 5, 2010

This week was a busy week for me especially with several events that required remarks or speeches.

Events, Meetings,Speeches

Monday’s first meeting was with a prominent property owner in Cary. He is interested in a project in downtown Cary in coordination with a church.

My second meeting Monday was with Mayor Killen of Knightdale. We went over all the details necessary for me to hand over the Presidency of the Mayors Association to him at our Christmas Party meeting in mid December. Mayor Killen is a fantastic person and will be a great President for the Mayors Association.

Later Monday night I continued to work on the State of the Town address. It is important to me that this presentation being informative and meaningful. When it is all said and done I, along with staff, will have spent many hours preparing this for the public.

Tuesday I attended the Wynston Ridge Homeowners Association meeting which is my neighborhood. Since I have been an elected official I offer to stay after the meeting and give a brief summary of things happening in and around the neighborhood and answer questions. There were many good questions and the ones that seem to be of most interest were the schools and Waverly Place Shopping Center.

Later Tuesday I wrote a draft of the speech I was to give to the Athens Drive National Honor Society later in the week.

Championship City

Wednesday I gave welcoming remarks at a reception held by the Chamber of Commerce for the NCAA committee. They are in town for the NCAA Division I women’s soccer championships or College Cup. We have been hosting the Division I men’s and women’s College Cup for many years. Next year the College Cup will go to another venue outside of Atlanta. We are making strong bids to bring the College Cup back to Cary in 2012. You may or may not be aware of it but Cary is designated as a NCAA Championship City. We have hosted many national championships in the past few years resulting in millions of economic benefit. Here are some of the upcoming national championships that we will be hosting:

•2011 Division II Baseball Championship – USA Baseball National Training Center
•2012 Division II Baseball Championship – USA Baseball National Training Center
•2012 Division III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships – Cary Tennis Park
•2013 Division II Baseball Championship – USA Baseball National Training Center

There are six NCAA championship cities. They are Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, and Cary. I am very proud of Cary’s designation as a Championship city amongst all those big cities.

Police Training

Thursday I stopped in on the Triangle Area Negotiators Information Exchange (TANIX) in the police training area to see what that was about. Like the title says, these are law enforcement professionals that exchange crisis negotiation information. I found out that negotiators can be used in anything from a hostage situation to a suicide attempt. Attending this training was law enforcement from around the area including the SBI and FBI.

When the Gorilla Gets Tired…

Thursday night I had the honor and privilege to be the keynote speaker at the Athens Drive National Honor Society induction ceremony. I had fun writing and delivering my comments to the couple of hundred people in attendance. I was surprised by how many people enjoyed them. One person actually said it was the best speech they ever heard. Wow! I do think I would have gone that far but I really appreciated the sentiment. Well, because I got so much good feedback I thought I would post it. It is important to know that I use what I write as notes so what I actually deliver may vary. But the notes were close to my comments. My delivery was light and hopefully funny and I seemed to have everyone’s attention. Here are my comments:

Good evening. Thank you so much for inviting me here to be a part of this ceremony. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of National Honor Society members and the new inductees.

Before I continue I want to give a disclaimer. When I was elected mayor three years ago I found out that the Public Information Office writes remarks for most everything I say in public. But tonight I have written these remarks. So this can be a good thing or it can be bad thing. Hopefully it will be good.

When I was asked to speak a few weeks ago I thought about what advice I could give to you. I thought about when I was your age. That was a LONG time ago. Let’s just say I was a child of the 60s. Anyway, if I could go back in time and talk to myself it would go something like this:

CURRENT SELF: Hi Self, I am the future you and have come back to give you a bit of advice. You need to step outside your comfort zone more. If you do then you will find more successes in life.

PAST SELF: Cool man. What do you mean by comfort zone?

CURRENT SELF: Self, I am glad you asked. Being the mathematician that I know you are, since I am you, I can explain it better in graph terms. Picture an area on a graph with a bounded by a top and bottom line. The area in between is your comfort zone. The bottom line represents things you are comfortable doing with very little effort. If you spend too much time near this bottom line your will become bored.  The top line represents things you are comfortable doing using all you know giving maximum effort but still remaining relatively comfortable. If you spend too much time near this line you will become exhausted. To be successful and grow you will need to go above your top line on occasion. Once you do it enough you will gain knowledge and become comfortable. As a result you will move that top line, grow and realize more successes.

I think my teenage self would have understood what I meant.

Your comfort zone is applicable to all parts of your life whether it is educational, corporate, or personal. I have many stores about my comfort zone but for the sake of time and not wanting to bore you I will talk about only one. I grew up with a single alcoholic parent. While many people can talk about working their way through college, I worked my way through high school and college. I can tell you that this time was hard for me and not very comfortable. I envied those that had two parents, a house, and the comforts of life. As a matter of fact, my goal in life at that time was to strive for an average life. So I attended college a received a mathematics degree from a small college in Georgia. Then I attended NC State and received a degree in computer science. Having a degree in computer science in this area is average so I am on target. Next I met a beautiful lady and got married. Instead of having 2.3 kids I rounded down, being a mathematician, and we had two lovely daughters. No family is complete without pets so we have always had at least a couple pets. So by the 1990s I had achieved a very happy average, comfortable life.

Then in 1997 things changed. It was election season for the Town of Cary and I received a card in the mail. On it had questions: “Are you tired of this, are you tired of that, etc”. At the end it said “if you checked yes on any of these boxes email us.” Well, back then there wasn’t as much spam and I didn’t see the harm in emailing so I did. Within a few hours I was called by the campaign manager who went down a list of all the possible things I could do to help the campaign. Of course I said no to all of them because I was not comfortable with doing those types of things. Instead of hanging up they asked me to come to an information gathering at the candidate’s house. That seemed harmless so I went. I became real excited about the candidate and before I knew it I had committed to doing something I am very uncomfortable with, hanging flyers on door knobs. Well, my candidate was elected and asked if I would start a web site. Being the geek I am I created the web site. It wasn’t long before the web site took off and I was considered the leader of this group of several hundred readers which got the attention of the media. This was very uncomfortable. I felt my web site was providing information that the town should provide so I made my first public speaking appearance in early 1998. My voice and hands were shaking like a leaf.  I recommended that council provide needed means of communications or create an advisory board of citizens to do it for them. They agreed with the latter, created an advisory board, and made me chairman. Now I was really outside my comfort zone. But the year went on and I became more comfortable and the top line of my comfort zone moved up. I grew and was successful getting things done. The next thing I know I was asked to serve on the Planning and Zoning board which was televised. Then I was asked to run for council in 1999 by the man running for mayor whom I had helped run for council two years earlier. I REALLY didn’t want to do this but realized that I had changed through taking on challenges in the previous two years and became a better person for it. So I grabbed hold of the coattails and he was elected mayor and I was elected to council. I served four years and was put in many uncomfortable situations but I was able to do them all, raising that top line of my comfort zone little by little. I ran for reelection holding tight to those coattails that got me into office. They mayor was thrown out and so was I.

I didn’t feel that bad about losing. I was put back into a life where I could spend time with my family and build my career. I was very comfortable, fat and happy. But it was clear to me that I had become a much different person than I would have been if I had not served.

Then in 2007 I was approached and asked to run for mayor. Five minutes later when I stopped laughing I said no. I had spent from 2003 to 2007 rebuilding my career and enjoying life with my family. I REALLY didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. But I was asked many more times. I talked it over with my wife and eventually decided to file. Filing for mayor was one of the most uncomfortable experiences in my life. I actually felt embarrassed. Needless to say I was very uncomfortable but knew that I represented the voices of many. Even though I was outspent 6 to 1 I was elected mayor by a landslide. Since that time I have been in many uncomfortable situations but I have the confidence that I can succeed if work at it. I found that I love being mayor. This is something that I would have never dreamed of doing 13 years earlier. It wouldn’t even have made my top 500 list of things to do in life. The experiences and opportunities I have had as a result of stepping out of my comfort zone starting 13 years ago have been invaluable. I have talked with the president, the governor (many times), senators, several congressman, and leaders from around the world. I feel truly blessed. And to think it all started with me sending an email and taking a chance to leave my comfort zone.

So my advice to you, my challenge to you, is step outside your comfort zone. Imagine what potential experiences await you. Don’t let the fear of a challenge paralyze you. You all have great potential and you can realize the potential and success that goes with it if you step outside your comfort zone. Remember success doesn’t come easy.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from Robert Strauss that goes: “Success is little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t stop when you get tired – you stop when the gorilla gets tired.”

I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and stories with you. Thanks for inviting me and once again congratulations on your induction to the National Honor Society.

Meeting the Mayor of Durg, India

Friday I met with the mayor from Durg, India. Like me, mayor is not his primary funding job, he is a neurosurgeon. We exchanged gifts and then I explained how our government worked. Then I gave him and his family a tour of town hall. It was an honor and a pleasure to spend time with him.

Mary Lights the Tree as Snow Falls

Saturday I attended Cary’s Christmas tree lighting and introduced the 2010 Official Christmas tree lighter. This year it was Mary Henderson who retired from the town after 30 years of service. In case you have forgotten, Mary led our Parks department for many years and was responsible for venues like USA Baseball, Cary Tennis Center, Booth amphitheater, and SK8 Park. In addition, she led the building of three community centers and 8 parks. She helped the town save over 1000 acres of open space and park land just in the last 10 years. AND she got national accreditation for our parks program. Although Mary has retired, the good news is that hundreds more continue to work with the town to maintain and improve our quality of life every day.

The tree lighting ceremony went off with out a hitch. The talent presented was incredible. I especially enjoyed the young talent which included the Cary Elementary choir and the 7 year old singer. The mood was especially memorable with all the snow falling. While I was speaking kids were making snowmen, adults were smiling, and everyone was having a great time. What a special night!

Mailbag

There were numerous emails sent this week including some interesting ones from staff. All the plans in town under review were sent out. If you want to take a look go to http://www.townofcary.org/__shared/assets/Active_Projects_in_the_Review_Process__sorted_by_date_10656.pdf. Unemployment information also came out and through October Cary has an unemployment rate of 5.4% compared to our high of 6.2 in June of 2009.

Other emails included comments for and against having a Christmas Community Tree instead of a Community Tree. BTW, that decision was made 11 months ago. In addition, I received many emails from citizens wanting me to read documents. Interesting. It is like someone posted somewhere that I need more to read. Well, I will do my best to get to this reading as soon as time allows. One other email suggested that we put solar panels on roofs of all town buildings. That is a great idea but of course is expensive.

Coming Up

Next week will continue my busy time with a police promotion ceremony, employee luncheon, taping of the State of the Town address, and the Christmas parade to name a few.

Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, December12th. Please feel free to email me with a comment.

Personal comments please send to augustanat@mindspring.com.
All Town of Cary business – please email me at Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org

2 replies
  1. Bob Hickey
    Bob Hickey says:

    Harold – nice speech. I remember the old web site you did back then. It got me interested enough to apply and then serve on a couple citizen boards. Thanks for your work.

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