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The hiring last week of Chip Minnis as the new police chief of Simpsonville was a victory on many fronts.
Certainly it was a great victory for Minnis, who has toiled for decades in the police departments of Shelbyville and Simpsonville.
Certainly it was a triumph for the city of Simpsonville, which basically not only was able to keep its police department intact during a leadership change but also able to hire a native son, a person who knows the community so well, to police its streets.
But the biggest triumph was in the advancement of an African-American into a position of leadership in local government in Shelby County.
Last summer we took Shelby County Public Schools to task for its failure to identify, recruit and promote minority educators into positions of leadership during the time it was splitting its high schools and middle schools. The dearth of leaders of color in our schools remains troubling.
Our point in that criticism was to aver that our leaders in schools should mirror the makeup of our community, that the seats are filled with students of color who need instructors and role models who can relate best to them.
But that issue is even more important in governmental roles, and the diversity of leadership in Shelby County’s legislative bodies continues to lag the demographic shift of the community.
On Shelby County Fiscal Court, the Shelbyville City Council and the Simpsonville City Commission there are no people of color. In fact, there are only three women.
We understand that candidates must emerge for public office and then be elected. There was only one African-American who filed for those bodies during the 2010 election, and he was defeated.
But, failing that, there is a responsibility for those hiring for leadership positions – and we place police chiefs and county department heads at the top of that list – to understand their responsibilities to diversify our governments, to reflect their constituency.
We don’t know if Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden, Police Commissioner Scott McDowell or City Administrator David Eaton fully recognized this opportunity when they were given it, but in selecting Mr. Minnis they created an example for their brethren to the east to follow.
Mr. Minnis not only is professionally qualified on many levels, but his family members have been outstanding contributors to this community for decades. He also serves as a leader in our parks system.
He knows our people, our geography and, yes, the breadth of our people, invaluable insights that are coveted in all good leaders.
That’s why we hope that the next time someone in this county hires a new leader – even, say, a new boys basketball coach – that person will look at Mr. Minnis and say, “That was a good idea.”