We’re looking for a handful of smart people to participate in a yearlong project we’re calling The Opinion Shaper.

As the executive editor here, I relish the variety of opinions that make their way to the Editorial page every week, and I’d love to hear more people tell me what they think.

One of the main goals of The Robesonian is to provide community service by communicating news about events, issues and ideas.

It’s the ideas part of that equation that I am most interested in fostering here on the Editorial page. Of course we welcome letters to the editor, and we occasionally run guest opinion pieces from elected officials and community leaders.

I’m now taking this one step further to offer an invitation for regular folks to participate on a regular basis.

So I am reaching out to the community, seeking smart people who can put together 800 words on a single topic that they care about.

As an Opinion Shaper, you’ll be required to write a column once every three months — that’s four times in the year — or once every quarter.

The subject of your column should have a local connection or focus on local issues.

That said, this is not an opportunity to stick it to your neighbor, whose dog barks all night long. This is not an opportunity to endorse your favorite candidate for office. This is not an opportunity to quote scripture, write poetry or publish that novel you’ve been picking away at.

Instead this is a chance to explore the ideas of issues like funding for local roads, educational standards or future development in our growing region.

We’ve seen too many fatalities as a result of driving under the influence in the past year. Perhaps you know someone that this has touched: This is a chance for you to explain why stricter laws, more enforcement or increased social conscience is needed to prevent more deaths.

Perhaps you feel strongly about state, county or city laws and ordinances. Our elected leaders who represent residents in their district say they want to hear from us; this may be your chance to share your opinion.

Issues of a wider scope — those of a national or world perspective — may have local impact. While you should not promote your favorite candidate, you could provide some insight on what the most important issues are to our region. Since you will be read by residents in Lumberton and Robeson County, you may want to tackle the value of local parks, museums, trails or bikeways. Clean air and water also make good topics of conversation.

Remember though, that any good editorial piece proposes viable solutions. We all love complaining about traffic, but coming up with a good solution is what we’re after. Turning every road into a one-way road is not a good solution — remember, I said I am looking for smart people.

If this sounds like something you would enjoy, please contact me. I’ll ask you to send me some of your ideas and a short version of something you’ve written. We’ll also need a picture of you to run with your quarterly column.

The idea of providing a clearinghouse of public opinion has been one of the primary functions of newspapers throughout time. I look forward to bringing more of those local opinions to you in the future.

David Kennard is the executive editor of The Robesonian, which publishes in Lumberton and the greater Robeson County area. Contact him at [email protected] or call 910-910-416-5847.