Wyoming group loves Lewisburg

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Marshall County Commissioner Anna Childress, center, confers with Mary Randolph, right, of the Wyoming Rural Economic Development Office. At left is the Rev. Leland Carden.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Mayberry RFD's got nothing on Lewisburg, according to an independent community assessment group in town last week.

"Caring people" are a significant part of what makes this town a community, Brian Beadles of the Wyoming Rural Economic Development Office told about 70 people Thursday night.

For example, a local man who suffered a heart attack was so impressed by the number of people who showed up at his front door with food that he's planning his next heart attack, Beadles said.

The Wyoming Rural Economic Development Office conducts community assessments in that state and others to find strengths, weaknesses and ways to improve. Learning about communities in other states shows Wyoming officials how to do things differently; some are better and some are methods to avoid. Lewisburg Economic Developer Greg Lowe discovered the Wyoming service last year during a conference in Cookeville and he brought them here.

Constructive criticism was also sprinkled through observations delivered in the big meeting room of Lewisburg's recreation center during the last evening of the Wyoming group's visit.

"Sometimes we feel stuck in the 1950s," was another observation that Wyoming surveyors heard during their listening sessions with people of all walks of life in Lewisburg.

An aging leadership, a desire to have younger leaders and the difficulty in finding people who are willing to serve in public office were other observations repeated to Lewisburg residents who attended the open community assessment meeting Thursday night.

Mary Randolph, the Wyoming group's leader, put her team's point of view in perspective before the initial assessment report was delivered. Wyoming's sparse population has no commercial air service but it has huge federal parks.

In Wyoming, things get done by the "STP, same ten people," she said, concluding that with a larger population, Lewisburg's goals might be accomplished by the "SFP, or the same 50 people."

A final written report is to be delivered to Lewisburg in about two weeks. It's based on information, opinions and general observations about what people here think about their community, what they want from it, and how such desires might be fulfilled.

The report's most important part - how to deliver what people seem to want - is to include suggestions on where to go for financial assistance and what to see that has already been done on that subject elsewhere.

Nearly 150 people were heard during 13 listening sessions and 50 written comments were received during the assessment period of April 10-12.