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Community forum seeks to define community priorities

Forming Fennimore's Future, Feb. 7

Community forum seeks to define community priorities

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POSTED January 26, 2018 10:37 a.m.

“We all have our own missions,” says Mandy Henkel. “The Forming Fennimore’s Future forum gives us all a chance to reevaluate our ideas and realign them with the desires of the whole community.”

Henkel serves as the Vice-President of the Fennimore Industrial and Economic Development Corporation board. An ardent volunteer with a passion for seeing her town thrive, Henkel found her way to her current position when she attended the last community forum in 2009. She went out of a curiosity, she left with a commitment to act and be even more involved in the small city where she had made her life.

“I showed up as a community member just to hear what was being said and got pulled in,” Henkel says with a laugh.

She looks back at the forum fondly and feels that it produced a lot of great action on behalf of the city. Because people turned out to participate and define projects they found important to the well-being and future of the city, people were left energized and with more direction.

James Schneider, the UW-Extension facilitator for the event, and Linda Parrish, the promotions coordinator at the Fennimore Chamber of Commerce, both concur with Henkel’s assessment. The two agree that while not every item on the objective list created in 2009 came to fruition, many did and all for the betterment of the city.

Parrish can rattle off a list of accomplishments that arose from that meeting – the community calendar sign, improvements at Arborvitae Park, the Dinky Railroad installation, welcome signs entering the city limits, cleanup of a former junkyard, Oakwood Nature Park, improved community relations with the school, and more. Each of the items listed was a priority defined at the 2009 meeting.

Now, nine years later, it is time to bring the community back to the table to reassess and refocus on the future of Fennimore. To that end, the Fennimore Chamber of Commerce, Fennimore Industrial and Economic Development Corporation and City of Fennimore are sponsoring ‘Forming Fennimore’s Future’ on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

A soup supper is planned from 5-6 p.m. Emailed RSVP’s are needed for the supper by Friday, Feb. 2. at promo@fennimore.com.

The forum, no RSVPs needed, starts at 6 p.m. and will end by approximately 8 p.m. The forum will be held in the auditorium of the Fennimore Memorial Building.

Henkel, Parrish, and Schneider stress that the forum is meant for every member of the community, regardless of age, experience, or any other factor. If you live here, your input is desired! Whether you’re 12, 20, or 80, your view of the future and the priorities you find for keeping Fennimore a positive place to live are needed.

Those goals can be diverse, Schneider says. Some are concrete objectives, relatively easy, such as installing a sign or installing playground equipment. Others are, “not things you get done,” he adds. “They are things that are ongoing, like tourism promotion.”

It is the dreams today that make tomorrow, points out Parrish.

“Things like the library and Marsden Park are the result of the dreams of our predecessors,” Parrish notes.

Those dreams can turn into realities that enrich the community for years to come. But they need upkeep and updating, too, says Henkel. A community forum is a great place for people to bring up not only new ideas but ways to improve on old ones as well.

The forum process is fairly simple, Schneider explains. It begins with a look back at the objectives and what was accomplished from the last community forum in 2009. It’s important to acknowledge our accomplishments, he says. It’s too easy to overlook them, which leads us to overlook just how much the community can accomplish.

Then he will offer a recap of projects that were identified but not completed.

At that point, he begins to gather ideas from participants – what else people want to do or hope to see happen – adding them to the list of opportunities. The group then pares them down, voting to shorten the list to six or seven ideas.

The next step is to divide people up into groups by idea to develop the idea, create an idea of plans, steps, and timelines for making the idea happen. These efforts are turned into a final report detailing the discussion and findings reflecting the overall community’s priorities.

This is an important effort, according to Schneider. Many community groups will look to the report to focus on new projects or for encouragement to continue ongoing projects, he says, “using this report to identify community priorities and to make them happen.”

And for some people who want to support the community through financial support, it helps them identify projects and recipients for their giving, Schneider added.

“There is value in both participating and listening to what people in the community are passionate about,” Henkel says. “I never had the opportunity to be involved with something like this when I was young.  Wish I had.”

If the forum plays out as it did in 2009, the Fennimore Memorial Building will be filled to capacity with community members from all walks and ages.

“I have never worked with a community that got so many people involved,” says Schneider of 2009. “That kind of involvement is important. If the community gets behind something, it makes it possible; it makes it easier to get an organization involved, to get the city behind it. When the community says, “We want to do this,” it’s powerful.”

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Make your voice part of Fennimore’s future by attending ‘Forming Fennimore’s Future’ community forum on Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 6-8 p.m. in the Fennimore Memorial Building, 850 Lincoln Ave.

For more information, contact Linda Parrish at 608-822-3599 or promo@fennimore.com.

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