Carl Swope Column: Leadership Required for Unification Decision

The following guest column from Carl Swope appeared in The News-Enterprise on September 20, 2011. You can view the full, online version here:

Carl Swope News Enterprise Column hardin county government unification review commissionShould Hardin County and the cities within merge their governments? I wish I knew the answer to that question. In some ways, I also wish I could ignore that question; but today there are compelling reasons why it is important for all of us who live here to answer it and to get it right.

Change is taking place throughout our region. More and more, industry is looking to the Midwest for expansion because of the available workforce, the price and availability of energy, and our central location to population centers across the country. Locally, BRAC has brought significant changes to our population and demographics. These changes are happening whether we recognize and engage in them or not.

I know from my experience in business that change is difficult no matter how large or small. I also know that, despite the difficulty of change, ignoring the need to change can be disastrous. If you would like examples of what I mean, visit the Swope’s Cars of Yesteryear Museum. There are many beautiful examples of vintage car brands that no longer exist in the market. The companies that built them ignored what was happening around them and became chapters in history rather than staying relevant. There are other brands in our museum that kept up with the changing world, and the cars they build today are for sale in our showrooms.

Getting the unification question right will take leadership. When faced with difficult decisions, good leaders don’t allow emotion and nostalgic tendencies to cloud the facts and the situation before them. In many cases, especially when the issues are fundamental and will have profound implications, good leaders will bring in consultants to help them assess and decide.

In 2006, Bill Ford, grandson of Henry Ford, was leading the Ford Motor Company as president and CEO. He knew Ford was at risk. The world was changing. The Ford Motor Company was not changing with it and become irrelevant. After gathering all the facts, fully assessing the situation and exploring options, Bill Ford came to the conclusion that he was not the right guy to make the necessary changes; so he brought in Alan Mulally to run the company.

What a difficult decision that must have been. What leadership it took for a man whose name was on the building to step aside and recognize the need for change. I have deep respect for Bill Ford and his leadership.

I believe he saved the Ford Motor Company and in so doing, protected thousands of jobs in our region and perpetuated the Ford name for the future.

I call on my city council representatives, mayors, magistrates and the county judge to be the same kind of leaders as Bill Ford. We have a very important question to answer; and it can only be answered correctly if we gather the facts, push emotions and nostalgic feelings to the side, and fully trust the democratic process.


Carl L. Swope of Elizabethtown is president of the Swope Family of Dealerships.

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