To the editor
I wasnʼt born in Auburn, nor have I lived here most of my life.
Seventeen years ago, when our family arrived here from New York City, I had never lived in a small town in my life and wasn’t sure I’d love it. However, within days of moving in, neighbors, school teachers and pretty much everyone we met overwhelmed us with welcoming gestures, as if they all conspired to make sure we noticed that Midwestern hospitality is a real thing! We found our new town charming and jokingly wondered if we hadn’t just moved into a Disney movie.
Of course we did miss our NY friends and the cultural diversity of the city; and while we loved our new home, there was culture shock on a daily basis. For example, we couldn’t believe how everyone seemed to know who we were and where we lived, even if we had never met them. Big city anonymity? Not here! Another thing surprised us: Just about everyone we met was born and raised here — and still lived here — a little different from New York where there are people from everywhere and occasionally youʼll meet a born New Yorker.
I found some of these cultural differences amusing and decided to embrace them. As I grew to love Auburn, I also noticed that little by little, more was happening to revitalize downtown, grow local events and make Auburn even better! I didn’t know Sarah Payne but often heard her name attached to community events or new creative initiatives, both in an official capacity or as a volunteer. Sarahʼs passion for Auburn naturally and powerfully engages others to get involved. Beyond their obvious professional quality, Sarahʼs credentials reflect her values. She has a great respect for the history and the traditions of Auburn (she was the ACD executive director from 2013 to 2017), but is equally eager to embrace new ideas. She has spearheaded initiatives that have given new life to downtown and boosted hometown pride. Auburn Main Street has succeeded at creating a sense of community many towns would envy. The so-called “parking problem” in downtown Auburn is a good problem to have. It means more people are spending time downtown! Residents and visitors are enjoying all that downtown has to offer, and itʼs good for local businesses!
So about that observation that so many people who grew up here still live here, I think there is ample opportunity to attract new talent, new creativity and new energy to grow existing businesses and support the creation of new ones. There is an opportunity to engage Auburn residents in building their future and thriving here, by fostering an environment where innovative thinking is valued. And, there is certainly an opportunity to make sure the next generation of Auburn kids want to stay or come back soon.
Sarah Payneʼs extraordinary vision, her inclusive leadership style, proven track record of delivering results for our community and not least of all, her contagious enthusiasm, are what we need to make that happen.