What makes a good leader? This is a question I find myself asking often. Perhaps, it’s best not to define it just by words from a dictionary on what leadership should be but instead by example in which one leads. From my personal experience, I see that leading by example and action is what matters. When you boil it down, this is what separates those who proclaim to be a leader but only have a title and often perform lip service instead of act, from those who truly are the leaders we look for and need. There is a perfect example that stands out to me when I ask what leadership should look like. No, this example is not a historical figure or a famous athlete; this person is closer to home. The citizens of Opelika have that perfect example in Mayor Fuller.
Please, allow me to paint the picture. It wasn’t that far back, the beginning of the year, that the Opelika community was faced with a quarry that would have left many with an uncertain future. I cannot speak to all those affected, but because of my position as President of the Board for Storybook Farm, I can share the impact the quarry would have had on this special place.
If you are unfamiliar with the Storybook, their impactful mission is to change childhoods. For the past 18 years, Storybook Farm has bridged the gap between hope and hardship for over 10,000 children by invoking the restorative bond between animals and humans. Dena and her team provide therapy for kids that face immense challenges resulting from mental health, grief, congenital disease, terminal diagnoses, abuse, neglect, and even poverty. Storybook Farm was established for the thousands of children who are emotionally and medically fragile that carry burdens too heavy to bear alone.
At the farm, the horses and dogs, along with other companion animals, help kids learn, grow, and overcome. There is something divine about the way a child connects with an animal. Often, healing happens without a word being spoken. With animals as teachers and without judgment, a child builds self-esteem, lives in the moment, gains responsibility, experiences compassion, fear is replaced with courage, and defeat is replaced with accomplishment. The things this organization has accomplished are immense, and the impact immeasurable; through this organization and these kid’s eyes, we are blessed to capture a glimpse of God’s love.
Since the quarry’s proposed location was less than 1000 yds aways, it was a threat to the Farm’s future. I can confidently state that it would have closed the doors forever. What seemed like a hopeless situation, and what shaped up to be a modern-day David vs. Goliath story, there was a David in our corner. It was Mayor Fuller, leading in front as well as behind the scenes, choosing to fight back in a way that was effective in accomplishing what everyone wanted, to prevent the quarry from happening. His direction and decisive decision making prevented the quarry from even making past the starting gate. He did many things to accomplish this incredible feat, more than this letter will allow me to share. However, all should know he didn’t stop after the company picked up and moved on. Even after his success, when most would have called it a day, he continued fighting by lobbying the state legislature to allow him to annex that property into the city of Opelika. He knew through Opelika’s zoning laws that he and the council would have a say in what happened on the large parcel of land. Through his intentional actions, the Farm’s mission will go unabated from outside parties that have plans that aren’t in the best interest of the community.
In trying times, some would buckle under the pressure or may not know what to do. However, that isn’t the case for Mayor Fuller. He put a community on his shoulders and protected it from a situation whose full impact will fortunately never be fully understood. I am not a resident of Opelika, but write this letter to the people of Opelika to reassure them that they have the right person as mayor of their city. Mayor Fuller’s track record speaks for itself and, in my opinion, is exemplary of the leadership we need from our elected officials.
I rest assured the board and the Storybook Farm team can focus on propelling forward the Farm’s mission without interference because Opelika has a strong leader. It is tested and true that Mayor Fuller keeps the best interest and well-being of the citizens his number one priority. In three weeks, I hope everyone will vote and cast their vote for Mayor Fuller, knowing he as proven he will always put Opelika and its citizen first.
Storybook Farm Board