November 12, 2015

My close friend, Julie Winter, is running for Redding City Council. I have worked with her for more than a decade. Julie is one of the most intelligent and forward thinking leaders I have ever met. This is only the 2nd time I have ever endorsed a candidate for an office in my life, but I feel like Julie’s candidacy is motivated by divine providence. This guest blog by Julie is a great overview of her vision for our city.

Living and serving in the Bethel community for 26 years, I’ve been challenged by the question, “What would it look like to have a city transformed by the Kingdom of God?” As a nurse practitioner, I look at this question from an analytical perspective that begs the question “Can you measure it?” If Redding was truly transformed then statistics for social issues like crime, divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse and homelessness would improve. If Redding was transformed our unemployment rate would drop to less than five percent and median income would rise from a low of $44K to surpass the national average of $52K. If Redding was transformed our health statistics, which are some of the poorest in the state, would improve.

I wondered why didn’t SOMEONE come up with a strategic plan for transformation? What are the root causes of so many of the social issues that cause tremendous pain for our citizens and business owners? Why are people homeless? Why are people committing crime? Why are people substance abusing? If we don’t answer these questions, we will come up with the wrong solutions. This is the type of analyses I do daily when patients present with “symptoms.” So why weren’t leaders stepping up with strategic solutions?

Little did I realize that I was part of the solution. Challenged to run for city council by three people whom I deeply respected, I began a journey of prayer, measuring the personal cost and deciding if I could make a difference. The two issues that have driven me are the increasing hopelessness that I see in my patients daily, and the fact that my two sons have been unable to find work to support their families in Redding. Our best and brightest leave to make their dreams come true somewhere else. Will my grandchildren have a future in Redding?

After answering yes, I would pay the price, and yes, I think I can be part of  a city wide transformation, I’ve entered the race for Redding City Council, 2016. I have jumped off the cliff so to speak, way beyond my comfort level or expertise. Yet, if I don’t, who will? Daily, I feel the pleasure of the Lord in this. I’d love to have an entire revelation of strategy, but it seems to come in small bits from a variety of sources. He is the light that shines on my feet, but I do not see much beyond that. However, his voice I do know, and I cling to his presence where all knowledge, wisdom, faith, love and hope abound. There are no problems he does not have a solution for. This gives me courage  and confidence for the future of our city.

We have so many genuine needs, the social issues being the most prominent in everyone’s mind. However, what will actually change the social issues, which are driven by hopelessness more than anything else? Obviously, the foremost answer to this question on a personal level is the transformation of Christ living in us, the hope of glory. Nothing compares to this. Beyond this, I believe that If we could change one thing first, it would be the economy. What people want more, per research done by Gallup, is a good job. Jobs provide hope and sustenance for families  and revenues that fund solutions for our social issues. If we try to fix homelessness or substance abuse without changing our low unemployment and median income rates, we will exhaust every resource we have and still be in the same boat. Yes, we can and should work on these problems with the resources we have, but long term solutions require foundational economic change.

Historically, our city has built economic foundational stones based upon resource extraction like mining and timber. These industries brought in money from outside the community and spawned many other related wood and paper product industries. When these industries left or diminished, our city relied upon service and retail industries. Unfortunately, service and retail sectors don’t generate new money, but rely upon recirculation of existing money. When an economic downturn hits, the economic wall of Redding collapses, because we never replaced those key foundational stones with sectors that bring in outside money.

I believe Redding is in the midst of an economic transformation. As I look to see what talents God has given our community to steward, I see several areas of prominence. First, we have a small, but growing technology and entrepreneur sector. Our relative proximity to the Bay Area, mobility of many of these jobs, low cost of living and quality of life make many Redding desirable for technology. It is estimated that 70 percent of all jobs in California will be in STEM in the next ten years, so we need to create the infrastructure for the jobs of the future. The rising level of entrepreneurs and startups are bringing a sense of hope and destiny for our city. Secondly, God has gifted us with abundant natural beauty that we currently underutilize. The Sacaramento riverfront area alone, not to mention our world class fishing, hiking, hunting, camping, biking, watersports, skiing, makes Redding the perfect place for a destination city. If Palm Springs could turn sand and sunshine into a resort, what are we doing with what we’ve been given? Making Redding a world class destination city would result in the birth of many businesses related to this as well as businesses related to our outdoor lifestyle. One of our most incredible assets are the people who move here, many of them from other countries. These people are often risk takers and come with different educational training, skill sets, talents, resources, and a new way of looking at problems. I also believe Redding has tremendous potential in the creative arts, and could be the northstate hub for entertainment, largely because of the talented people in our community.

So what do we need to do? As a city we need to identify these new business leaders of the future and find out what they need to be more successful. One of the most powerful things we can do is speak positively about our city, not only in our conversations, but on social media.  We need to shout about the successes of companies like Limelight Health, Tegile, Spiritus Solutions, and Moseley Family Cellars to name a few. The greatest enemy we face in our community right now is not people, but hopelessness. And the greatest way to defeat hopelessness is to share the testimonies of success.

Lastly, we need to get involved. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he found the people living among the ruins. They had lived among the ruins for years, without attempting to rebuild because they had lost hope. Nehemiah brought both hope and strategy. In reality, the people had everything they needed to rebuild their own walls. It was just a matter of being responsible for the wall in front of their home. We too, have everything we need to rebuild our walls in Redding. It’s just a matter of not walking by the discarded stones, but getting involved, picking them up and resetting them in the wall.  If you don’t do it, who will?

Julie Winter is a Family Nurse Practitioner and serves on the board of Advance Redding, Bethel Church and her NP professional organization. She also serves on the Community Development Advisory Committee for the City of Redding. Julie is running for Redding City Council in 2016 and you can find her on Facebook as well as get more information on what you can do to help at juliewinter.com.

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