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West Fork State of the City 2013


February 28, 2013 by wcobserver

The economic outlook for the City is more promising. Tax revenues for the last reporting period are up. Small businesses have opened and they report that business has been good for them. Two large businesses began in 2012 and there was also an expansion of an existing business, all of which will employ local people. The Harps store on Phillips Street will officially open on February 20th and will provide a much needed pharmacy for our residents and those who live in the largely rural area of south central Washington County. A Community Clinic will be opening in the old offices of Compassion Care. It is without doubt that the diversity of services will add to the quality of life in our City. Plus, the much anticipated website has received the final bids and work should begin by the end of February if not sooner.

With regard to other events in West Fork, it has been more difficult for me to discuss in a State of the City because of the vast number of issues which have affected our City in 2012 and the competing personal investments within and between the issues.  In considering all that has come before the Council in 2012, I now firmly believe the nature of a city is much more than statistics and finances.  It is the common connection between people which contributes to the growth and quality of life in a city.

While I and everyone in West Fork are encouraged by the increase in funds, new businesses, and jobs, I feel more than ever that we as a city should focus more on the future of West Fork and the contributions our residents have made to the City, and what their actions have told those of us who manage the City on their behalf.

What West Fork has accomplished and who made it happen is an important ingredient when considering the future of West Fork.  In my opinion, the greatest number of achievements was made by those who were not involved in government.  They were made by countless volunteers who work with one or more organizations to plan and implement change.  The volunteers have a vision for what life in West Fork should be and they have worked very hard for many years to create that future.  I want this State of the City Address to be dedicated to their efforts because without them, what would West Fork be?

The Wenzel Community Center runs on the million dollar hearts of Bonnie and Dick Steffes.  Bonnie and Dick have been there at least three days a week for more years than can be remembered.  They work, worry and organize what they can because activities for the seniors are important to the senior citizens of West Fork.  As volunteers they receive no compensation and continue their work even when they are not at the Center.  The Quilting Club and sleeping bags for the homeless are only two of the extra efforts by other volunteers at the Community Center.

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We can take pride in the Renewable Resource Center (RRC) and its volunteers.  Each year has brought a significant increase in the use of the Center thru an increase in the tonnage and the diversity of items which can be recycled.  At Municipal League meetings and other environment related meetings, the RRC is recognized throughout the state for its unique and productive management.   The volunteers, organized by Patty Baker, Paul Libor and the Friends of the RRC Committee, remain dedicated after seven long years of hard labor.

The West Fork Library continues to expand its programs for children and adults thru the contributions of volunteers, staff and Friends of the Library which bring in much needed funds.  Its collections are expanding and this year there has been an increase in the number of artists who exhibit their work at the Library.

The Master Gardeners, thru the non-profit organization West Fork Watershed Alliance, was successful in 2012 in obtaining grants for two large rain gardens and a large brick flower container for the base of the Renewable Resource Center and Heritage Gardens sign.  West Fork has at least seven volunteer Master Gardeners to maintain the Library and community gardens.

Our Farmers Market is maintained by volunteers and the Market vendors give anonymously any unsold produce, eggs or home made goods to those who might be in need.  The manager receives no compensation.

West Fest is achieved only because a volunteer, or volunteers, stepped forward and made it happen.  In March, I will be presenting to the City Council several strategies for providing West Fest.

On January 26, 2013, at a ceremony at the Community Center, Cody Gladson received his Eagle Scout Award.  In attendance were family members, troop members, Scout Leaders, many friends and two Master Gardeners.  Cody, with the help of at least thirty other people built garden beds at Heritage Gardens for programs this spring for the children of ABC here in West Fork.  Cody’s Troop Leader, Tim Lant has been with Cody at least eleven years of Cody’s life.  The Eagle Scout Award required a family of people to come together for many years to improve the life of one person and by doing so, they completed a vision to improve the lives of many more.

Throughout West Fork’s churches and organizations, countless hours are devoted to making the lives of our residents better.  I wish I knew all of them and I’m certain there are more activities of which I am unaware.  I want them to know that while they are not mentioned, they are appreciated.  All of those working to create and complete a vision have defined goals.  Their goals are tied to a vision of what West Fork should and can be.  The unseen contributions to the City are the countless volunteer hours of meetings to create the significant stages of planning a project.  They have a vision for West Fork and they believe things can be better.  I hear them talk about that vision and the steps they planned and took to achieve that vision.  I hear the visions more than I hear talk of dissent and what is wrong with West Fork.  For me, the dissent is a request for the different visions to be considered.  If only we in government could see what they see.  Perhaps we can…

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Volunteers on this Council, and on commissions and committees have a thankless job.  No decision is the absolute right or correct decision.  It is impossible to please everyone.  But decisions contain fragments from many sources and perhaps we have missed an important fragment that would bring us closer to consensus.  I believe the missing fragment is a shared vision of the future of West Fork.

As city administrators, “Do we have a shared cohesive vision for our City?  Do we know where we want to be in five, ten, or twenty years?  If someone asks us, what kind of town is West Fork, what do we answer?  We are not funky Fayetteville are we?”  What did we volunteer for when we ran for election?  I have been asked that question on occasion and my response has always been, “Because I want to preserve the quality of life in West Fork.”  I firmly believe we in West Fork government would say the same.

Residents expect city officials to know and understand the impact of their decisions on the future of West Fork, acknowledge the impact of those decisions, and take on responsible planning for a common vision.  When department heads make decisions about what has to be cut, what part of the City’s vision did they give up?  Which sidewalk will not be completed?  Which street will remain unrepaired?  Which police officer’s position will not be funded?  It is not that we should expect full funding, only that budget decisions be based on planning which pro-active.  If we lose a part of a vision for our future, we should document the reason in writing and devise a plan to restore what is lost.

If we, this Council and Mayor, as volunteers, each took a piece of paper and wrote our own personal vision of how our City should be in ten years and what we would like to do to achieve it, what would each of us write?  From personal experience, I know that I share my vision with at least one Council member.   The challenge I present before this new Council is to consider what has to be done to create a shared vision for West Fork.

I challenge each volunteer on this council to approach 2013 with a renewed spirit and belief that we can overcome the usual pattern of politics and work to create a shared vision for the future of West Fork.

I close by extending my deepest gratitude to those, including this Council, who have added and continue to add to the quality of every life in West Fork.


Frances Hime, Mayor

12 February 2013

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