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  • Last modified 246 days ago (March 15, 2018)

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When the well runs dry

Consider that headline to be not a statement unto itself, but the beginning of a fill-in-the-blank question, the sort I used to enjoy as a professor when setting up my students for the dreaded essay questions that came at the end of my tests.

“When the well runs dry, _________.”

It’s a question I sometimes ask myself when I sit down to write a column. Aside from all of the fire trucks running hither and yon, and an accused teacher turning himself in to authorities, it’s been relatively quiet recently.

If we don’t get rain soon, many will have to start taking that question literally. For all the talk about drought, it doesn’t look that bad out there, but as we’ve reported elsewhere in this issue, it’s worse than meets the eye. This past November through January was the driest such period in 123 years of record keeping.

Other times when my well is about to run dry, government provides, as it did yesterday when Melissa Mermis resigned from city council.

Mermis grew in the role she was originally appointed to — I remember thinking just that when she came to my office for a candidate profile interview. It’s something I observed during council meetings.

She didn’t waste many words. Growing more vocal over time, Mermis typically got right to the point of what she wanted to say, whether she was promoting some issue or countering another’s comments. She also developed a knack for asking the kinds of questions others either overlooked or chose to leave unspoken. She’s been thoughtful, committed, level-headed, and dependable. She’ll be missed. We wish her well in her future endeavors.

That being said, we certainly hope the well won’t run dry when Todd Heitschmidt goes looking for her replacement. We’ve had numerous county elections where no one has filed for local positions and incumbents have run unopposed because no one else wanted to take on the task. We know there are people out there with knowledge, experience, and insight to serve effectively — but will they?

That’s a serious question reflecting the challenge of finding volunteers to do all of the things they do. It’s a dilemma shared throughout the county. We’ve written before about how a vital resource for all our communities is slowly dwindling. Some volunteers are darned near professionals at it, taking on one extra task and then another as other volunteers drop out and no one else steps in. That well is starting to run dry. What can we do to replenish it?

The best fill-in-the blank answer I can come up with is this: When the well runs dry, fill it back up or drill a new one. It applies to so many different facets of our lives, whether we’re talking something as large as economic development or as small as our own motivation.

The corollary question almost always the same: How? That’s what we have to figure out, preferably before any of our wells run completely dry.

— david colburn

Last modified March 15, 2018

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