GUEST COLUMN: When it’s time to roll up the sleeves

We’ve invited Logansport Mayor Dave Kitchell to share updates from the city in a monthly column.

Logansport Mayor
Dave Kitchell

One of the turning points in the future of north central Indiana happened when leaders of our community and others heard news they didn’t want to hear.

More than two decades ago, an annual meeting of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor Association at the Honeywell Center in Wabash was much anticipated. Then Lt. Gov. John Mutz was the keynote speaker for the event. Those who supported the idea of a four-lane highway connecting Fort Wayne to Lafayette through Cass County and Logansport were there to hear what hope he could provide.

Unfortunately, the message didn’t give us much hope. Unless it could be built as a toll road, state transportation leaders saw no foreseeable way the state could ever dream of building it or say that it would happen. With the unlikely possibility of a toll road for a route that wasn’t an interstate, it was a disappointing time for those who saw the potential in infrastructure investment state officials at the time did not. But it galvanized supporters to further efforts on the national scale and eventually make the Hoosier Heartland a national priority corridor. Today, we have that four-lane access because of that day in Wabash and the determination of people who wanted a specific vision for their communities. We changed state priorities in the process.

I remembered that chapter of our community history last month when I received word that a state agency had turned down our application for consideration as a Stellar program candidate. It was disappointing because of the incredible participation in the state’s Hometown Collaboration Initiative and because of the many hours I put into the process. It was disappointing because it could have meant an additional $4 million not just for our city and county, but neighboring communities. Yet it was a galvanizing moment for me, as was the moment I learned Logansport and Cass County were passed over for the state’s Opportunity Zone list that could have introduced millions in outside investment to our industrial parks and the south side of Logansport.

Logansport and Cass County aren’t often the top priorities of people in Indianapolis. Yet, we have much to be satisfied with as May begins. Our unemployment report for the month reflected the lowest unemployment for March this century. Our offices are busy and our fees for building permits this year are up briskly over last year. Our Logansport Re-Imagined speaker series has attracted about five dozen people to discuss what they want Logansport to become. People value their dreams and goals and if participation is a leading indicator of success, we’ve reached a time when we all have to dig in, roll up our sleeves and plan how we’re going to attain those goals and create that vision. And that’s what we’re all doing.

Last Saturday, we saw 160 examples of that for what turned out to be a tremendous turnout for the annual Green and Clean Day downtown. A parade of dumpsters led an exodus of trash from neighborhoods throughout the city. For the rare people who think no one cares about the appearance of our city, Saturday was Exhibit A in proving them wrong.

In the past month, Logansport honored Ken Fraza for his 42 years of dedication as McHale Performing Arts Center’s only manager. Ken did more than just show up for work during his tenure here. He was a mentor, a director, an employer and a creative partner for local arts organizations. Although he never knew the benefactor for his workplace, he carried out the vision Frank McHale had for Logansport. It was satisfying for me to see so many friends, acquaintances and former students of Ken attend the “Frazapalooza” in his honor. He received a key to the city and was named our Logansport Citizen of the Year.

This is a season for celebrating the accomplishments like Ken’s, but also the passage of students on to college and careers. One of those occasions happened late last month in West Lafayette when I witnessed the work senior civil engineering students at Purdue performed to help Logansport deal with downtown stormwater issues. Another of those occasions was last week when I spoke at the Pharos-Tribune’s annual “Youth to Watch” awards. A third celebration was held at Logansport High School where students in the adult learning program received their high school equivalency certificates thanks to the work of Rosemary Weaver and her staff.

We will have disappointing days, but May is more than the month of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in Indiana. It’s a time to appreciate what anyone can do when sleeves are rolled up and we get down to work. For people like Logansport people, dreams and visions can be deferred, but will not be denied.