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Editorial: So everybody is poor here in Wadena, now what?

Paula Quam, Wadena Pioneer Journal Editor

The story we ran recently on poverty in Wadena County sparked some interesting conversation on social media. The county story seemed to morph into criticisms of city leadership in Wadena, and although that wasn't an intentional outcome on our part, we believe there is some value in tough conversations. We were glad to see comments stay relatively respectful because we believe everybody involved has the same end goal—to strengthen and grow Wadena. If it were easy, every little town would be thriving regardless of circumstances, so those with the energy and drive to take on small town leadership should be commended. It isn't a high paying gig, the criticisms are endless and it's tough to find incentive for people to want to step up to that plate to lead. Having said that, of course there is always going to be room for improvement, and that's why good, constructive conversations are important ... conversations backed with the willingness to act.

There seems to be a message that some people who live or have lived in this town continually convey to the outside world about Wadena, and it's one of "nothing good ever happens here". It's a message that nothing but bad decisions are being made to stifle the town's growth. And whether there is any validity to that notion or not, the truth is, it takes a village to build the village. At what point do we all stop and wonder what we are doing to make it better? Are we all out volunteering? Are we out supporting local businesses instead of loading up in another town? For you local business owners and employees, are you earning your customer's business or are you assuming it's people's responsibility to shop local regardless of what they're offered? When does it stop becoming the government's responsibility to make life good for us and start becoming our own responsibility as community members?

There are so many good people in Wadena ... people who work hard, obey the law and raise great families. But if people in this town want to see change, they've got to be the change. That is surely a stolen quote from somebody famous, but it's true. Attend various meetings, get involved, raise your hand. The more ideas that are flowing the better.

And for us at this newspaper, the same applies. Now, as we pointed out how poor everybody is around this place, we can't help but think, "Now what?" What can we do to help the situation instead of simply pointing out a fault? This is how: Without becoming a booster newspaper (one that only reports the good and not the bad), we hope to use this platform as a place where good, solid information flows about opportunities and successes, and fresh ideas can be shown the light of day. We can find places that clearly could use some improvement and spark new dialogue with the hopes that shining a light on problem areas will evoke change. It isn't to be negative nellies—it's to put our realities out there with the hopes that when it stares us all back in the face, we're either good with it or we're all ready to roll up our sleeves to improve it. We're open to story ideas, your opinion letters, your conversations and your concerns. We're all in this together, so if we want to see this city improve, let's do it.

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466
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