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Horizons: At the center of everything

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Gillette Kempf

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When I moved to Wadena seven years ago one of the most frequent questions asked was "why" ... in the land of 10,000 lakes I chose a town without a lake! "Because Wadena's at the center of everything!" I explained. Situated at the confluence Highway 71 and Highway 10; which bisect the state north, south, east, and west, you have to go through us to get where you're going. It's the perfect place to stop, stretch your legs, shop, have a bite to eat, take in a movie, play a round of disc golf, run the kids out at a city playground and enjoy ice cream.

Why do I live in a small town? Because everyone knows your name. This makes it much easier to raise kids, in my opinion, because when you let them walk down the street to the playground, you know that whatever they do will get back to you. In a small town when you stumble and fall (and we all stumble and fall) there are plenty of people right there to pick you up, set you on your feet and give you an encouraging pat on the back to get you going again. I love how quiet our town is. I know the train whistles every ten minutes take a couple of days to get used to, but after living in large metropolitan areas with constant background cacophony from traffic, subway, bus, train and airplane noise pollution, I think it is remarkable that we can pick out the leaf blower (or snow blower), the road crew and the neighbor's playing a pick-up game of ball as individual sounds. I like that when I see school staff around town we can have a quick conversation about my boys. I like shopping in a small town; I like going into Weber's, Ben Franklin, Smith Furniture, 1776, Lyle's Shoes or Main Street Sports and feeling comfortable asking questions about what I need — and if they don't have it they'll order it and give me a call when it's in. Shop Local, Shop Small!

Our challenge is to preserve the intimacy and interconnectedness of Wadena as we move forward; growing the community and adapting to the changes that the 21st century brings. The Mazlowski Regional Wellness Center is part of a plan to nurture and grow a healthy community; a community that sustains itself and attracts visitors. Another initiative reaching into Central Minnesota is a commitment to affordable broadband access for all residents. Universal affordable broadband access will allow Wadena to connect globally while still acting locally; for example, offering a free WiFi net across the commercial district further enhancing Wadena as a place to stop, visit, and stay awhile. A healthy, growing, and welcoming community starts with accessibility. A key to accessibility is sidewalks. I propose an initiative where sidewalks on the main pedestrian thoroughfares in the commercial district and in the Safe Routes to Schools zone are maintained (including snow removal) by the City. Finally, I would like to see Wadena join the Minnesota GreenSteps Cities program. Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, an assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

Gillette's Bio: If you would like to say hello you can find me most days at my place of business, An Open Book. I also serve on the Wadena City Council, please feel free to contact me to set up a time talk in-depth about any ideas presented here, ideas you have, or about planning for Wadena's future.

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