This is our community. We must set the pace and strive for excellence.

On Saturday, May 31, at LA Excels Community Convention III, Lewiston-Auburn residents will continue to chart the future of our community. The spirit of renaissance we celebrate is due to our increasing confidence and pride, and the belief that we can achieve excellence in all that we do.

We are seeing the tangible results of many years of planning, risk taking and investment. Our skyline and streetscapes are changing; access to public higher education, health care options and better paying jobs is increasing. Our cultural programs are expanding; our elected leadership is vocal and active. We can use and enjoy our riverfront, and we can gather informally in new urban parks.

Since 1998, I have had the pleasure of working among the people who have made this happen. As I step down on June 30 as executive director of LA Excels, I honor each individual who has had the courage to see our community’s future as positive and hopeful.

I thank the hundreds of citizens who attended the first two LA Excels Community Conventions and worked on task forces to identify projects. I applaud the 300 students who attended the LA Excels Youth Convention and their willingness to stretch their imaginations to envision the potential of LA.

I congratulate everyone in the private sector who has opened or expanded a business; I thank the city councils for major downtown investment; and I honor the hard work of volunteers in the many ongoing local capital campaigns.

It is an exciting time to be in LA. But we cannot slow down. We must continue the active collaboration that sets us apart from other communities. Each of us – every day – must continue to believe that LA is full of potential.

At the Community Convention on May 31, we will share an update on all LA Excels projects, including the LA Civics Leadership Institute and the Neighborhood Resource Center at Washburn School. There will be many other organizations with booths showcasing work in areas that LA Excels was originally asked to address, such as housing and bike and pedestrian trails.

We will focus on the plan for the arts center at the Great Falls School and a convention center and museum in Bates Mill 5. We must be together as a community to make these projects a reality but, to make good decisions, we must be informed.

The Community Convention is a time to listen, learn, ask questions and provide input.

The Community Convention will also feature the unveiling of an image campaign – a project of both cities, the Lewiston Auburn Economic Growth Council and the Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce. We have a good story to tell and it needs to be told.

The image campaign kick-off will be the beginning of five years of activity highlighting our community and those who attend on May 31 will be the first to learn the details.

But community development doesn’t happen at an isolated event. Each of us, every day, has a role to play.

What can you do today to continue the vision of excellence?

Believe in Lewiston-Auburn by making it your home. Serve on the school committee, planning board, or run for city council. Coach school teams, serve on boards, patronize the libraries and the arts, volunteer, and support local restaurants and retail.

Be aware of issues that affect the economic success of Lewiston-Auburn and advocate on a state and national level.

Understand how the quality of our public transportation system affects the ability of our workforce to get to jobs; advocate for a system that works and support it.

Support public higher education and our adult education centers to bring more and more high quality educational opportunities to our community.

Landscape your buildings. If you own vacant property, be kind to it. Look around our community. What buildings stand out? Those that have full planters, fresh paint and clean windows. Set the pace and strive for excellence.

Support the arts in our schools to provide our children the skills required to compete in the new economy. Understand that the arts make a difference in the quality of life in a community. They provide a recruiting tool and a retention tool. The arts are good business and they are good for business.

Become informed about the need for mass gathering space in Maine and support L-A as a prime site because of our rich heritage, available historic architecture, riverfront and canals.

Right now, drive or, better yet, bike out to Perkins Ridge and look at the acres of apple blossoms. Stop on East Avenue or on Goff Hill as the sun goes down and look into the valley at our city. At dusk watch the lights come on at St. Peter’s.

Believe that vision can become reality.

Rebecca Conrad of Auburn is the executive director of LA Excels, a community development organization in Lewiston-Auburn.

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