This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County. The team has since developed the Mansfield Rising plan, which Richland Source will explain idea-by-idea beginning March 1.  

As much as we are different, we are all the same. 

In Austin, among leaders from communities all over the world, we heard the stories of struggles and triumph, strategies and actions. As easy as it was to identify the stark differences between places like Kansas City, London and Mansfield, what became clear to me were the similarities.   

We were all looking for solutions for problems with housing, transportation and recreation.  The specific problems were often different. Some communities face over crowding and spiking prices while others face neglect and abandonment.  Different problems, but all of them are systemic and require deep, meaningful and broad based changes.

In Mansfield, it highlighted the real necessity of big picture change.  We’ve been looking at our assets for years and what we know is that we are rich in assets like people, places and experiences. Those are our 'easy buttons.' We have been out-producing each of these for our size and demographics for years.  

What the SXSW experience in Austin, and then meetings and community listening tour back at home with my co-horts taught me was that we were all thinking too small. We were over-focused on the little problems that take up so much of our days and budgets and under-focused on developing difficult, often wild opportunities and solutions that could create systemic change.  

This was huge for me, and I believe, it could be huge for our community.   

As different as the 15 members of the Mansfield Rising team are, we have a few things in common:

1. We all believe in Mansfield and Richland County.

2. We all know we can do better for not only the visitors, but the people who live here.  

3. And we all believe in the power of big change.

There are some big ideas coming out in the next year, and I hope that you’ll be open to listening to them, even if they seem crazy.  

I hope you’ll also dream big with us. Big cities and deep pockets don’t have the copyright on great solutions for complex challenges.

If you have ideas, partnerships or possibilities that you’ve been noodling around for our community, send me an email at Let’s get coffee and chat.

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South by Southwest Conference Blogger

CEO of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. and a certified Main Street Manager with the National Main Street Center. Her work focuses on business development, historic preservation, planning, promotions and strategic investment.