Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

Serendipity or the power of bearing witness?

Sunday, May 08, 2011


On Friday I had the privilege of keynoting the 13th Alexandria Business and Philanthropy Summit It’s a community with impressive philanthropic leadership – and sets an example for many to follow. While there I observed some acknowledgements of the City Manager’s last day. His name is Jim Hartmann.

During my talk I referenced Scott Pelley’s recent 60 Minutes piece on homeless children in Seminole County, and the opportunity we’d had to have dinner with Pelley, and hear him speak, just a few days before. As soon as I finished Jim Hartmann walked over and introduced himself. He’d just taken the position of County Manager in Seminole County, was starting in 3 weeks, had seen the 60 Minutes segment and wanted to make a difference for those kids.

In a follow-up e-mail Hartmann said “How serendipitous that you were speaking to community leaders in Alexandria on my last day as their city manager and you spoke of the problems in Seminole County where I was appointed County Manager a week earlier. What are the odds of that happening?

I know Jim asked it rhetorically, but when I thought about it I realized that actually the odds were pretty good. Dedicated public servants like Jim Hartmann go where the need is. They accept the tough challenges not the easy ones. And when someone like Scott Pelley bears witness, or even beforehand in this case, someone like Jim Hartmann acts.