Knowing when it’s time to go: Greene County’s multicultural initiative will be fine without him.

By CHUCK OFFENBURGER

JEFFERSON, Iowa, March 31, 2024 – Greene County’s bold new initiative to grow and diversify our workforce and population – which I’ve written about several times here since the fall of 2021 – is moving forward.

Our first newcomers will probably be two sisters from warn-torn Ukraine, expected to arrive in in Jefferson in mid-April.  We’ll be welcoming whole families from all cultures soon.

It’s a remarkable effort by this rural county that has been losing population for a century.  After careful planning, securing a $95,000 rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a successful $300,000 local fund drive for additional financial support, Greene County is now going to have its best opportunity for real growth in decades.

Visiting dancers in the Bell Tower Festival parade in Jefferson in 2022.

I fully support this initiative, as I’ve told you in past columns and again in this one. 

But I’ve now bowed out of helping lead it.  Since I’ve been so involved and noisy on this, I thought I should let the public know.

On March 3, I resigned as a member of the board of directors of GCDC (the development organization) and as an officer of the MFRC diversity initiative (I was secretary as well as chairperson of the steering committee).

“I am 76 years old,” I wrote in my resignation.  “I’ve given this initiative 2 ½ years of my retirement, hundreds of hours of volunteer work time, and a couple thousand dollars in paying my own expenses doing MFRC work. 

“You know what?  It’s been so worth it!  It’s been fun, interesting, often inspiring.  I have really loved working with all in GCDC and getting to know everybody better.  I’ve met many other people, around Greene County and beyond, while advocating for the MFRC.  Put all that together, and I’ve done enough.”

I also pointed out that “we’re in the middle of a generational hand-off of leadership in GCDC, and that’s a really good thing.” 

Although I think I had proposed a good plan for the launch and early-operation of the MFRC, it’ll be good for the new officers and the new full-time director to chart their own way.

They’re nervous about the widespread interest media have had in what is happening in Greene County, including at least four national media outlets.  I’m not a bit nervous about that, recognizing the media interest as an excellent opportunity to spread our welcoming message far and wide.  I never sought any of it myself, but I sure cooperated with reporters when I got their calls.

They’re interested in our story because it’s a damned good one.

And, yes, they’ve probably first heard about it from a dozen or more stories and columns I’ve written about it for our local media, for this website Offenburger.com, or in my columns here on the Substack platform. 

I will undoubtedly continue to write columns about the good work of GCDC and the MFRC – when I think such stories are warranted.  But I think it’ll be neater & cleaner if I do so without having a membership or other affiliation with those organizations.

GCDC and its partner organizations have shown real vision and courage in advancing the MFRC idea, especially when criticism has occasionally been heated and resistance strong. 

It’s going to be worth the hassle.

If our county-wide community’s leadership continues to think big enough and act boldly enough, it will spark unparalleled growth and prosperity here.  When newcomers are arriving, workforce is growing, more new housing units are becoming available, and new small businesses are opening, the public will be celebrating all this.

You can comment on this column below or write the columnist directly by email at chuck@offenburger.com.

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