Stevens County: Community

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(Stevens Forward Survey Version 5.2)

{official site survey}

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Stevens FORWARD! seeks community’s input Morris Sun Tribune Published Saturday, March 01, 2008
"The Stevens FORWARD! stewardship initiative is seeking the public’s input on what it sees as its future through a Community Perception Survey.
A copy of the survey accompanies this story, and also is reprinted on Page 10 of the Saturday, March 1 edition of the Sun Tribune.
“Every time we’ve met with people, we’ve had people throwing ideas back at us,” said Paul Watzke, chair of the Stevens FORWARD! stewards. “People are responding well.”
The survey takes about five minutes to fill out, and the survey found on Page 10 can be mailed in -- a P.O. Box address and email address are on the survey -- or given to any of the initiative’s 22 stewards and coordinator Roger McCannon.
The Stevens FORWARD! stewards are: Warrenn Anderson, Sara Beyer, Brad Fehr, Mark Gibson, Marcia Greiner, Darick Huebner, Jacquie Johnson, Jean Lesmeister, Alissa Melberg, Hannah Newhouse, Sal Monteagudo, Carolyn Peterson, Marissa Ritter, Marilynn Stallman, Ray Suess, Glen Tomoson, Jim Thoreen, Watzke, Jenny Wermerskirchen, Wayne Westerman and Ben Winchester."

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

-Why do you live here and you could live anywhere else in the state, nation, or world?

-What do you value most living around here?

-What are our assets around these parts?

-What makes our county-wide community unique?

Feel free to copy and paste this to your e-mail and send it to me (Sal) at:

Community's Thoughts

Since our two-day weekend meeting at Alberta, I've been "chatting" with folks I run into in the community about our county...

This evening (Sunday, November 18th of 2007), I chatted with a business owner that lives outside the county. He told me we already know what we need in our county, its just how and if people are going to be open to it-new industry or chain stores (e.g. Walmart and 3M have already tried to get in, but was refused by the community) from the "outside". Yes, the people here that are locally owned business owners would rather keep it the way it is and keep outsiders (big buiness owners) out! However, this area will continue to struggle like the way it is right now unless something is going to get done. He then told me that "we" (Stewardship committee) need to interview "everyone" because it's mostly going to be all the same answer for the same demographics of people (e.g. elderly). One group won't care on a particular issue because it doesn't effect them (e.g. public school-dont' have children). An interesting subject he added was folks that come from out of town to "scout" the community to see if this is a place for them to move to. They have stopped at his business to ask all sorts of questions about the community. When they come to his place of business, they remarked how nice and clean this place is. He feels the cleanliness of the business can show "newcomers" or "potential residents" if this community is a "well-kept" community!

Yesterday (Saturday, November 17th of 2007), I was at the RFC and met a recent UMM Graduate (Class of 07'). He told me that he might have to move back to the cities unless he finds a job soon that will keep him around here.

On Monday, December 3rd of 2007, a co-worker/friend of mine asked me to go helped pick-up a snow shovel from Alexandria his fiance ordered. As many rides to Alexandria I've been on, I thought it was a good time to bring up about the Stevens County Stewardship Committee. He shared some similar views about not wanting a big Walmart coming in because it'll take the "Ma and Pa" stores out of business. However, he agreed we need more diverse (e.g. college graduate) job opportunities. Then he shared with me about the need of more community "social" functions that gets people to come together and to get to know one another (e.g. the COPC: Community Dialogue Series). He would like to see more activities or options (e.g. besides the RFC) for the community to gather (e.g. I added getting out of our "comfort zones"-e.g. very own church denominations)).

After our "Stevens Forward" article, I took advantage of this publicity to ask ("What would you like to see in Stevens County in the future or 2025?";actually after noticing a poster called "Economic Ingredient"-is education for our youngsters) more folks in the community. An individual that works in the Morris education system shared (Wednesday, February 13th of 2008) that he would like to see more recreational activities for his kids or young generations beyond. A list of them he gave me were: outdoor pool (specifically by the RFC), more additions to parks, more variety of intramural sports for those that are not in a school team, etc...Right after he shared, he quickly asked me the same question to me, which he was the first individual I've surveyed to do this..thanks, which I just gave my response down below.

Last night (Friday, February 15th of 2008), I had the opportunity to chat (A&W Restaurant) with a citizen from Pope County. I know this is gear towards Stevens County, but Pope County is close enough. He shared how we sometimes have to act upon a proposed project because if we wait too long, the cost will be higher-he was pertaining to a county jail (similar to what we are going through in Stevens County).

Earlier today at work (Wednesday, February 20th of 2008), I was able to interview a co-worker about this community project. She is from Herman (Grant County), but it wouldn't hurt to ask. She told me that she would love to see her kids to continue the family farm 40+ years from now..if it's still possible with hesitation in her voice. She shared about the many agri-businesses located in her town. As I was interviewing her, she started to ask questions about what we as a group (Stevens Forward) are saying about our community's economic and other related challenges.

This morning (Sunday, March 2nd of 2008) after church service, a church family member/friend told me he saw the recent article on the survey in the recent Morris Sun Tribune. He ended-up sharing his views with me from his work at Superior Industries and the "predicted" recession coming to our country. We asked together if the recession comes and effects our manufacturing businesses locally, where would he and all these employees find jobs? He hopes that "Stevens Forward" finds ways to attract "new" businesses in the area to provide more jobs. I then shared that this might be possible with "no tax" incentives or we in "America" just have to learn how to "budget" (change our "extravagant" life-style if possible). Earlier on our conversation, I shared that statistics on demographics show that the population of Stevens County is going down! He then shared that he has co-workers coming from outside of the county working here-as far as Alexandria! It would be interesting to take a survey on how many people live outside of our county that come here to work and the opposite! Overall, he feels optimistic where Stevens County is heading for his children and the future generation.

I just came out from my morning (Friday, March 28th of 2008) workout at the Regional Fitness Center (RFC) and had an unexpected conversation dealing with the topic here. This "older" gentleman and I had our usual "Minnesota" weather conversation. I then thought about this community questionnaire. I ended up having an informal interview with him. His name is Don ("Donald Duck"-was called growing-up), who grew up working in a farm in Douglas County-close to Alexandria. I asked him what got him to these parts. He told me "I needed to eat". Farming wasn't going to get him anywhere, so he moved to Stevens County around the 1950's. His wife taught at the high school here, which he told me it used to be across the street from here -the old "Agricultural school". Later, he shared how there used to be 15,000 people that lived in Stevens County after I told him that the population is really decreasing in these parts-close to 10,000; he would correct me that it's even less, not even close to 10,000. Don explained to me that the agriculture-farming economy was big "back then". I then responded that we now have industries like Superior and Westmor that's changing that. He then shared that we need to use what we already have here, which is "beef". Wulf Limousine has a lot of cattle that would benefit a "meat packing plant", which the previous owner (deceased now) has tried in the past to get this in Stevens County-shared this with the city council, school board, etc... I shared my learned knowledge that Hancock was the "beef capital" of the state. Don corrected me that it might still be! I added that we should do the same with the growing dairy farm (Fehr's), which they should start a "Cheese Factory" (that Wisconsin is known for) or "Creamery" (they had this "back then" according to my history research). He shared that Morris used to have a flour mill (knew this too from research), which moved to the cities! After I followed him to the track at the R.F.C to continue this interesting "history lesson", he had to go as we departed our ways to our daily agenda!

Great Business Ideas from Community Residents

-Retreat Center
-Catering business
-Reception/Party Hall (e.g. banquets, weddings, special events, etc..)
-Ethnic Restaurant (e.g. fancy Mexican place)
-special Jewelry store
-Sports Entertainment Center (e.g. indoor batting cages, 3D Golf, etc..)

My (Sal's)Thoughts

As I chatted with some folks already since getting out on Saturday morning from Alberta, all these thoughts have been coming up:

-We may not have the lakes and resots like Alexandria, but we have the "prairies" that attract many hunters (e.g. especially pheasant hunters) to our area. Some famous hunters that come here are the Mauers (Twins baseball players), which we can promote our area more. Have special "Hunting Fundraisers" each year to benefit a particular cause (e.g. Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Education, Athletics, etc...) that our county-wide community has a passion for.
-Get a marketing tool/promotion to get people around to visit. For example, St. Paul (born and raised here) had these "Charlie Brown" theme statues in particular areas of the city. This would promote tourism and visitors to go all over the city to visit each unique statue. Well, we can have "cows" (with a particular city/town them-maybe the h.s. mascot) for each city/town (e.g. Morris-"Tiger" cow, Alberta/Chokio-"Spartan" cow, Hancock-"Owl" cow, Donnelly-?, etc...) that has the school colors on the cow.
-Welcome Signs on each of the "4 corners" of the county: Like what we have when people enter Morris in all directions, we should put signs welcoming people to Stevens County (with info: map of all the cities/towns, attractions, annual events, etc..).
-Morris Businesses more visible via internet (e.g. My Power Mall, a home-based business I joined recently, which I see we as a community can try something similar???)
-Cultural Awareness in the School Systems (I just added this this evening-Saturday, February 16th of 2008) after a teen from outside of Stevens County shared with me a "not suprising" racism remark said to her...
"was called "wet back", "nigger", etc..during school"
*see racism

Reccomended Resources


  • Minnesota’s Sesquicentennial: What do we wish for kids? Morris Sun Tribune Published Saturday, February 16, 2008

  • By Tom Larson
    "Minnesota's future We’ve all had the pleasure of browsing through an older relative’s photo album or diary and relishing a glimpse of life 50 years ago.
    The Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission, in honor of the state’s 150th anniversary, is letting state residents create an all-encompassing guidebook that might also pique the interest of people two generations down the road.
    “Sesquicentennial Plan for Our Future: Many Voices-One Minnesota,” will be a compilation of many conversations from people around the state dealing with where its people have been and what they envision for the future.
    About 10 people spent about 2-1/2 hours at a “Many Voices” meeting Thursday in Morris, and more meetings will be held in surrounding areas and regions of the state in the coming months. May 11 marks the 150th year of Minnesota’s statehood, and the Sesquicentennial Commission has events schedule throughout the year to commemorate it.
    The goal “Many Voices” is to have at least one meeting in all 87 counties, said Cindy Bigger, of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, who moderated the Morris discussion. There are 10 forums planned for the nine-county West Central Region which includes Morris.
    The forum demographics are “all over the board,” Bigger said, from senior citizens to younger adults. The “Many Voices” organizers also are contemplating a forum for children, she added.
    “It’s a discussion about where the state is and where it will go,” Bigger said.
    The Morris panel discussed the greatest changes they’ve witnessed in their lifetimes. The changes cited included the migration of population from rural areas, the technology explosion, the mobility and diversity of the population, and what Roger McCannon called “two Minnesotas.”
    The state today is very prominently divided into the metropolitan areas with its sprawling growth, and rural areas that are seeing declining population and opportunities.
    “What we’re trying to do (in rural areas) is pick ourselves up and move forward,” he said.
    McCannon recalled a conversation with former lawmaker Roger Moe following his run for the state’s governorship.
    “He said, ‘We’re on our own out here,’ ” McCannon said. “ ‘We have to figure out where we are and where we’re going.’ ”
    The forum participants discussed briefly various aspects of Minnesota life based on demographic information from the 2000 Census, such as health, population, education, agriculture, public safety, natural resources and the environment and civic engagement and the arts.
    They then discussed what they want for their children in the next generation.
    The consensus was for a more stable financial structure for education and infrastructure.
    “The system’s broke,” Morris Chief of Police Jim Beauregard said, adding that in recent years state lawmakers have been “dragging their feet” in recognizing that education is an economic investment in the state’s future.
    Cheryl Kuhn, of the Morris Area Community Education department, said her wants were simple: energy derived from wind, solar and water – “the purest resources for power” -- because without it, all other objectives are hamstrung.
    Jessica Beyer, of the University of Minnesota, Morris’ Center for Small Towns, said she wanted children to have healthier food choices and more physical education in schools, especially since family life has evolved to the point where it is virtually impossible to ensure children eat and exercise exclusively under the watch of parents.
    Allen Anderson, a Donnelly resident, stressed the need for children to stay connected to family and community, and to seek economic incentives to keep youth from leaving for metro areas once they graduate high school.
    Carolyn Peterson, head of the Morris Area Chamber of Commerce, also noted the need to create sustainable communities to give children opportunities to remain in rural communities.
    David Fluegel, of UMM’s Center for Small Towns, said the inclination in rural areas to centralize institutions, such as schools, isn’t as efficient as people might believe. Communities all should have their own schools and that rural initiatives needed to be more comprehensive than merely lumping them into Farm Bills.
    In the end, Beyer said communities will require a “change of thought” to effectively achieve the future they strive for.
    Bigger said it is that type of retrospection combined with forward thinking that might make the “Many Voices” compilation important, now and to coming generations.
    “Maybe people 50 years from now will pick this up and see what we wanted for them,” Bigger said. “It’s like doing a remodeling job and finding an old newspaper that was used to insulate a wall. It’s fun to see what was going on then.”"


  • Stevens County History, rough draft report from the "Stevens Forward: Stewards Action Team #2
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