Every week as I work on the next issue of the True Dakotan, I still revel in the fact that the majority of the news that comes across my desk is pretty darn good.
I feel fortunate that each and every week, I get to report on positive progress across many facets of the community. Often there are so many things to celebrate — whether it’s youth in our small school district accomplishing big things on the national stage, or major advancements in the way of projects such as the recently completed high school and Main Street renovations, or a renewed vibrance in the business district — that I literally can’t fit all the good news in that week’s paper.
What a great problem to have.
I’m well aware that all of this good news wouldn’t exist without ambitious, good-hearted, community-minded folks willing to give of themselves. Willing to volunteer. Willing to work together. Willing to do all of those things in order to create and grow.
And in my nine years of living in Jerauld County, I’m regularly — and happily — surprised at how many people give so much of their time and resources simply for the betterment of our community. They get no payment or reward, sometimes they don’t even want to be acknowledged for what they accomplish to make it a better place for all of us to live. When I talk about the vast resources in the way of businesses, community events, safety through first responder coverage and access to health care with my friends and family in larger cities across the nation, they are often incredulous, wondering just how we can have so much in such a little place.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of room for improvement, and my job as the editor/publisher of this community’s newspaper is to cover everything — the good, the bad, the ugly.
I hadn’t bought the newspaper from the Wenzel family when the June 18, 2014 tornado cut a wide swath across town (exactly five years from today as I write this) which definitely falls into the latter part of the news coverage categories above.
But today, five years later, I am again reminded of how much we have to celebrate. And it seems that out-of-town media outlets took notice as well.
As a KELO-TV reporter interviewed Wessington Springs Fire Chief Jim Vavra on the five-year tornado anniversary, he expressed excitement about how great town looked, how much progress the city and its residents made since that fateful day.
In last weekend's issue of the Mitchell Daily Republic, “Building a Better Springs” was the page one, above-the-fold story focused on the progress made in the last five years and the town’s exciting possibilities on the horizon.
Although recent struggles and perhaps growing pains at city hall have been a heated topic of conversation, I believe there is still much to acknowledge and praise when it comes to this community’s future.
So imagine my dismay when, in recent conversations with a handful of community members, they shared with me that they regret their choice to retire here, wish they had built a house elsewhere, or had landed in another community. They said that "things had gotten too negative."
Has it really gotten that bad?
I personally don’t think so. I think we are on the cusp of something really amazing — I am a firm believer that together we can achieve things we never thought possible.
In my experience, the "my way or the highway” mentality has never brought about any longstanding harmony and progress. But I’ve seen people willing to listen more and have an open mind move mountains.
If together as a community we make a commitment to shift to a more positive way of thinking and working together, what do we have to lose?
Because I’m afraid if the negativity persists, we will lose a lot.
Last week, Dr. Tom Dean expressed concern in a letter to the editor over the two large projects — the City Pool Renovation and Springs Rec Center — and the perceived lack of communication between the two committees spearheading the efforts to fundraise for each project. I for one am thankful he started the conversation and hope that this editorial clears up a few things.
I have been a member of the pool task force since last fall, and openly support both projects.
Both the pool task force and rec center committees realize that communication and strategy together are necessary for both projects to happen. That doesn’t mean we are fundraising together, it means that we realize that if we are funding these projects with similar resources, coordination with grant funding cycles as well as some corporate sponsorship is necessary for the future of both projects. While both boards are fully committed to funding their projects, we realize that communication between the two is absolutely necessary — and are regularly in contact to ensure that both groups move forward in ways that do not jeopardize the other.
Yes, these two projects represent a huge monetary investment. And the volunteers on these boards are dedicated to giving whatever time and effort is needed to bring the projects to fruition.
If you don’t want to fund either of the projects, there is no obligation to donate. And it’s your right to express an opinion. But maybe the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” could be something this community starts to mindfully practice?
Practicing positivity and kindness to one another doesn’t cost a thing. Can we try a collective shift in perspective?
Isn’t this community — and the residents who call it home — worth it?