Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores

George Hirst

Stark County Stereotype August 10, 2006

When I moved into Stark County in 1971 the County had a definite steorotype. The County was a collection of 6,000 persons mostly born and raised in the county, three small towns with small grade and high schools, and an attitude that was self-satisfied. Over the past 35 years the picture of the county has changed due to changing times and new leadership. There has been a change of the guard as well as a growing understanding of the county as a community.

Several people in the county worked to get help for others in the matters of relief for poor people. The emphasis was on helping persons as people. A mental health clinic was established with federal funds, the main office was in Princeton. The funding for that program ended and we have been without that help in the county . Still there have been some changes. For example, no one denies that we have poor people among us as was my experience when I first came to Wyoming, and no one denies the need to do something for people who are dependent on alcohol or drugs. There is a strong support in those areas. Our schools have consolidated into Stark County Schools and do well.

Walter Lippman, Journalist coined a metaphor for stereotyping as "a picture in our heads." He wrote that some groups have, as a deliberate political strategy, developed a genuine, positive stereotype

The image (stereotype) of our county in the 21st century is present for all to see, hear and read about. Stark County Economic Development Partnership has come into being. Dede Rice has been hired as Coordinator with Dennis Rewarts as Stark County Economic Development Vista Coordinator. Sally Pepper,Wyoming's Mayor , Kyle Ham, Toulon's Mayor, Gary Garavaglia, Bradford's Mayor and Mike Bigger, Chairman of Stark County Board are all members of that group. The Stark County Citizen's Mental Health Task Force was organized, Don StJohn. Denise King Furlong, Gail Ripka, Pastor Al Harmon, Carrie Titus and Sheriff Jimmie Dison and others. The Task Force s in line to receive a Governor's Award for their efforts. Temporary headquarters for these folks is in the Farm Bureau Building in Toulon.

Two efforts that present a county at work are: Roadside Signs (the big ones, however you call them) located on highways between here and Peoris and The Ag Vision group's plans for a brochure and programs to encourage tourism. The Opening of the Rock Island Depot in Wyoming as a good thing and as part of our history helps present Stark County's identity.

In my travels and conversations around the county I do not find that "picture in our heads." In short there is not the change among the general public that is needed. There is isolationism between our towns. There is bragging and commenting on how much better one town is over another. The leadership in the county , the schools,and the churches are moving together and working at the tasks of being a single community.

What is necessary is that the county be seen as a community, that persons volunteer either to become a member of the Economic Development Partners or the Task Force for Mental Health. The people who move into our towns will be a part of the community when neighbors make them welcome and help them find ways to take part in our community life. Some of us who are active in the county are still considered newcomers even though we have been here at least 25 years.

A good share of the changes that have taken place have been brought about by the work and words of those newcomers. They are the reason the stereotype (The picture in our heads) is beginning to change from "we don't do it that way" to "there are possiblities here).

There are things going on that will make Stark County be a place where more people can live and work. I write this not because the report of these developments and more have been made, but so that each of us see where we live is a place of growth and development.

At a wedding Dodie and I attended on the 5th of August.I became aware of another aspect of Stark County's development. At the wedding there were third, fourth generation persons who live and work in the area. Persons of the fifth generation were present whose presence livened up the place.

My observation tells us that there are citizens of Stark County who have grown up here in the 21st Century and are at work among us. The New image of the County might well provide jobs and occupations for the next generation.


Created by KKris. Last Modification: Saturday 09 of September, 2006 17:27:39 EDT by KKris.