“Government can be a force for good — especially local government.”

By Larry Carr

Larry Carr

I am so grateful to have been raised in a town called Morgan Hill.

While the votes have not gone in my favor, I am still extremely grateful to the residents of Morgan Hill for your trust in me during the past 25 years. As a high school senior at Live Oak I applied for and was appointed to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. I was encouraged by then-Mayor Bob Foster, and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Trish Johnson, and many others.  This experience along with having wonderful civics and ASB teachers at Live Oak and political science professors at San Jose State University showed me that public service is a noble endeavor and can be a way to make change and improve communities.

I was first elected as a trustee to the school board of the Morgan Hill Unified School District in 1996. Serving as board president we ushered in a new era in MHUSD by building Sobrato High School and Barrett Elementary School. The added elementary capacity allowed for reduced class sizes and a second comprehensive high school created the ability to bring the ninth-grade classes back to the high schools.

Decades earlier, Live Oak had become only a three-year (10th-12th) high school in a “temporary” effort to reduce over-crowding.  Today, Morgan Hill Unified School District has two vibrant comprehensive high schools creating powerful educational opportunities and a positive cross-town rivalry for our kids.

In 2000, I ran for and won a seat on the Morgan Hill City Council. I joined a council trying to rebuild from years of political in-fighting and fractious, disjointed decision-making.  And there were good people trying to make a difference — Dennis Kennedy, Steve Tate, Greg Sellers, and I began to create an atmosphere for positive interactions, goal setting, and decision making that valued citizen input and transparency.

Over many years I was proud to be a part of creating a positive work environment that attracted the best and the brightest to come work for the city of Morgan Hill. We valued innovation and allowed professionals the space to do their jobs without political interference or retribution. The ability to take risks while being prudent with the public’s trust and resources was rewarded with great success in Morgan Hill.

And yes, we built the things that cities are most known for. We preserved open space, built parks, and passed the first council-initiated growth control ordinance.

Twenty years-ago there was no Butterfield Boulevard, no Centennial Recreation Center or Community and Cultural Center. No Aquatics Center or Outdoor Sports Center. The Senior Center was located in a small facility at the Friendly Inn in Galvan Park, the library and city hall were small fractions of what they are today, and downtown was largely non-existent.

Cities are most commonly remembered for what they built, or what business, restaurant or attraction was located there. But they are so much more. It is the people that make a city so special. The human-side of local government, and Morgan Hill is one of the best.

I believe government can be a force for good — especially local government. And I loved my small role in making Morgan Hill a city that focused on the “good,” improved the lives of our residents, and created a positive atmosphere for people who want to work in local government to be successful.

You entrusted me, you gave me an awesome responsibility and a gift. I didn’t take a day of it for granted.  I enjoyed all of it. I never tired of coming up with solutions to issues, solving problems, and trying to make someone’s concerns a little better.

I am thankful for every colleague I served with. You all challenged me in your own ways and the experiences taught me to be the best policy maker, public servant, and politician. And I learned the professional side of local government from the best city managers in the business, Ed Tewes, Steve Rymer, and Christina Turner. Each one with unique and different talents that served our community at just the right time.

No one can do this job without the support of family. Thank you to every member of my family for supporting me (and putting up with me). Being in the public eye as an elected official can take a toll on your family. My family has supported and stood by my side through it all. Thank you, Barbara, Patrick, and Katie, and my extended family.

I serve, not for accolades, but to make people’s lives better. It is my honor to serve the residents of the city of Morgan Hill.

As I look back on my tenure, my proudest moments are working with the very community I grew up in.  My deepest gratitude to my family, to all those I have served with, and to the professional staff of the city of Morgan Hill.

Did we make a difference? That’s not for me to decide. Was it all worth it? . . . I think so.

I am so grateful to have been raised in a town called Morgan Hill.

Larry Carr wrote this guest column for Morgan Hill Life.

Guest Column