Justin Wright, Centerville city councilman and pastor of Centerville Community Church, talks about leadership and the Leadership Robins Region program.
Q: Why did you participate in Robins Regional Chamber’s 2018 leadership class?
A: I’d participated in a similar high school leadership class in Bibb County while at FPD (First Presbyterian Day School). It was founded by H. Lee Perdue, a legendary fixture in developing young leaders in Bibb. I’ve had a good relationship with Robins Regional for years and jumped at the chance to get a wider view of Houston County.
Q: You grew up in Macon?
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A: South Bibb, around Hartley Bridge Road between here and Macon. Growing up I spent a lot of time both places. I graduated FPD in 2004.
Q: Can you describe the Leadership Robins Region program?
A: That’s hard because it covers so much, but to give an idea, a lot of days are spent at places like Robins Air Force Base, Houston Healthcare, in the school system and with other area leaders in business and the community. It’s a wide variety. It’s an opportunity for someone with knowledge in an area, like me in church and nonprofit leadership, to see things up close in other areas.
Q: What did you find most beneficial?
A: I think two things. First, as I said, the exposure, seeing other avenues of leadership and business life around us. Then, beyond that, there’s the connections and relationships made with classmates and then with those you meet as you visit different places. I’ve asked people I meet for further information and there are those I’ve become close to. That brings better connections good for us all as a community as well as me as a councilman and leader in my church.
Q: How about a group project?
A: That’s another key component that helps the community and lets us work together as leaders and as team members. We did several projects. We worked with Houston County Habitat for Humanity and were involved in cleaning up Wellston Park and in a charitable 5K. Projects allowed us to serve others which is what I have the joy of doing professionally.
Q: What was the most surprising thing from the program?
A: Lots of things. For me, a big wow came spending time at Robins Air Force Base and seeing all that goes on there. It’s amazing. Everybody hears, “He works at the base” and “She works at the base” all the time but I got to see what that means and, believe me, the research done at the base, the maintenance and depot work — I mean I could go on and on and it’s crazy to see the breadth of all that happens there and the level it’s at.
Q: What do you think will be your lasting takeaway?
A: It’s that it confirmed something I’ve always believed. Well, two things. One is that a calling to leadership is a calling to serve. So many in the class from all different areas confirmed being successful comes down to serving others well. There’s a big difference in wanting to lead and serve and just wanting to be in charge. Leadership is serving.
Q: You’ve been a leader in your chosen field, church and pastoral work, for how long?
A: I’ve been youth pastor in three churches and in one I was also Christian ministries, worship and admin pastor. I came to Centerville Community Church in 2013, almost five years ago. There were a handful of people and then it went down to zero, but we’ve moved to a good, healthy place and are up to around 60 attending. But like many say, if everyone who comes came on the same Sunday we’d have quite a crowd. We do have a large youth group, larger than average for our size. We’re very connected to our neighborhood and that’s exactly what we want — we want to serve where we are. God has been good to us. I love our neighborhood and this community.
Q: And you became a Centerville city councilman running unopposed, right?
A: When I qualified I didn’t know I’d be unopposed but that’s what happened. When I moved here I attended some council meetings just as part of the community and as a musician I started playing for fun with friends at Food Truck Fridays at Center Park at Centerville. I built some relationships with people in the city and thought the park was great and with great plans but that they weren’t perfect. I felt a lot in my demographic weren’t being heard and that’s partially what got me thinking about running. I’m the youngest on council by 15 or 20 years.
Q: How has that been?
A: I feel the better that I work to make my church better, the better the community will be. And I feel the better I work for our community, the better our church and neighborhood and families and spouses and kids will be, so I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and getting to serve in a greater way all around. Some of the work is exciting and some mundane but all valuable. It’s like when you start pastoring a new church you have great plans and want it to grow but first you realize you have to fix the toilet, you know? There’s a balance to these things. It’s great being in Houston County where organizations and governments are committed to partnering for the common good. I’m glad to be working to help make Centerville the most wonderful community to live in with parks, restaurants, shopping and just a great quality of life.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.