Worthington, MN @ 150 Years – Look at Yourself

Worthington, MN @ 150 Years – Look at Yourself

It was 150 years ago when Joesph Muck and his brother caught their first muskrats near my community of Worthington. Since that time we have made some progress that has allowed many people to afford food, shelter and employment.

There were attractions that brought notoriety to this region and community. It was fertile soil, amply farmland and abundant water.

Today, 150 years have past. Many of our pioneer families have continued in their time honored professions of farming, even unto the second, third and forth generation.

Life has never been easy but seldom did anyone go hungry. This region has bounty.

My time spent in Worthington is nearly 1/3 of this communities history. So today I get to put on my junior philosophers badge and wax a bit about where it has been and how we might aim to see it move forward.

Farming and industry have been the life blood of this community. To celebrate this blend of rural and city life, promotionally minded people came up with an idea to acknowledge the turkey industry and hence a celebration called “Turkey Days” was born. We have celebrated for over 70 years.

Our turkey industry has long since dwindled and today the spot light is on racing turkeys down main street with a community from Texas that has had similar claims as the Turkey Capitol of the world.

It has garnered national attention and has allowed our community and the nation some mirth in our good spirited festivities.

I whole heartedly support these promotional efforts and recognize the tremendous efforts put forth by hundreds of volunteers to make celebrations work.

I also recognize that negative aspects of a community can over take the positive in the blink of an eye.

Our vigilance is required to move a community in an ever positive direction. Our vigilance is required to move a community into the next century.

Our action or our inaction will be recorded by historians. Perceptions of this community will be determined by what we say and what we do.

Let’s all step back and look at our community.

I suspect I am fettered by my own views, I look at it through the eyes of a retailer, a landlord and long time citizen. I choose to look at the demographics of our community and make broad judgements that may have some merit.

I do it with respect and appreciation that I have for this community. It has provided me and my family with gainful employment and bountiful rewards. Our children are now educated and gainfully employed members of a larger society.

Our turkey races have become somewhat mythical in status since much of the turkey industry moved out of Worthington a half century ago. (this is not to discount the event)

We should ask ourselves what other things are relevant today in our community? How can we encourage other positive aspects of this community from a promotional sense? Let’s ponder our most obvious assets.

We have a burgeoning pork industry and it is a major supplier of employment. It attracts workers that often are immigrants and refugees from far flung places. We have come to realize that these are the people that buoy and maintain our real estate market, buy cars, groceries and help businesses thrive in their retail endeavors.

Demographically, many of the blue collar families that were in Worthington in the early 1970’s have long since died or moved to be closer to their children and grandchildren in heavier populated cities.

We should recognize the good fortune of having people to replace those that have left many smaller communities. Those communities left failing demographically.

We are constrained by our steadfast and ego centric views, someone states; “The minority population in my community is over 60%”. They have limited capacity to see the irony in their statement?

It is important that we take the time to look at ourselves compassionately and critically. Who we were ONCE? What we were THEN? And who we are NOW.

We have a nationally/world renown bio tech / veterinary science industry that also attracts professionals.

We have the exceeding good fortune of having Bedford Industries, an industry that has broad reach, world wide in the fasteners industry.

We have Champion Homes in the modular housing industry.

We have recognition as one of the most active and viable Pheasants Forever organizations in the state/nation?. They have purchased more land for natural habitat than most anyone else.

We have soccer teams that have won state wide recognition, in part because of our diversity.

The list might go on to many things of which I haven’t thought, you the reader are asked to continue to identify these other city attributes.

As a landlord I have had the opportunity to meet new policemen, teachers, nurses, doctors and lawyers coming to town.

I sometimes fancy myself as Worthington’s “welcome wagon” of sorts.

I get to welcome these new comers as they enter our community for their first time. Everyone has trepidations moving to a new community. So I try to understand what made them make their decision to move to to Worthington. I welcome and assure them that their decision was well founded.

I recently visited with a new law enforcement officer, fresh out of school, and Worthington was his where he chose to begin a career. In our conversation we both acknowledged the diversity in this community.

I expressed that someone entering this community has a profound opportunity to increase their professional skill set. Few places in this nation contend with sixty four different languages being spoken in a community of twelve thousand people.

Imagine as a law enforcement officer if you could say “hello” in half of those languages?

Imagine what it would do for the interpersonal relations that occur every day?

Imagine how this would enhance your professional image, your communities image and the people with whom you deal?

These are all tall orders that I’m sure have been considered and pursued to some degree.
I suspect they have more people than myself suggesting what they might consider, besides just doing their job.

Yet, a young professional could consider much of this continued education and job enhancement.

They would search far and wide to get this significant amount of immersion in any other place.

I visit most with teachers that are moving to Worthington. I always try to ask them “what, why,how, and where” questions.

While visiting with these educators I find that numerous teachers didn’t just “land a job”. Many of these teachers are well aware of the incredible diversity within the local school system. Rest assured it is a daunting task for any teacher, but in Worthington it is multiplied exponentially by the dozens of languages being spoken.

Numerous teachers recognize that this is something that will be added to their own educators “tool kit” and to their resumes.

Imagine a teacher choosing a place that will be more challenging rather than the norm?

Imagine educators hearing of opportunities in this community, that they could get no where else?

These observations get me to the crux of my observations and opinions. Our schools would be nearly empty if it were not for our immigrant population.

I pose this idea, what if we as a community would decide to focus on this human resource of teachers and students?

What if we were to prioritize to make our community known for more than turkeys and hogs?

What if we were to set about recognizing that this community is a sociological and anthropological laboratory-World Market!

What if we set about being the showcase for the nation?

We could recognize these children as our most valuable resource. We could make them educated emissaries of our community. With or without us they will be entering this society.

Few people know that our limited efforts have caused students from this community to have invitations from the President of the United Nations, invitations to visit with Vice Presidents. Other students I’ve met have have gone on to modeling careers nationally, career officers in the Armed Services, doctors, etc. I ask you to consider and offer the list of students that have gone much farther than our county line.

From the confines of our small community we could step back and look at ourselves and recognize the wealth of diversity we have and how it could vault us forward in a meaningful way.

Imagine a community that could become a poster community for education and accommodation of this new found resource.

Sixty four different languages merging into one community.

Imagine a community that rises to the occasion to teach and appreciate this as a “wealth” of diversity.

Imagine a community that decides to make this their priority.

Bill Keitel

4 Replies to “Worthington, MN @ 150 Years – Look at Yourself”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Bill!! All of what you said resonates with me and you have my support!! Tremendous insight by your self nailed it. What an inspiring and eye opener of a dialogue that you presented!! The world and Worthington need more Bill Keitel”s myself included. All of us need to practice what you are saying and bring it to fruitation. You, I and the community of Worthington can be leaders in making the world a better place starting today. I once again applaud you for your insightful comments. Thank you so much!! Ron ‘Derby’ Durband

  2. Thank you Bill….for reminding us….some of us who have moved away….what we had…what is there…and what is possible….I miss my “hometown” and have never thought of it as a place to “escape from”….but rather…a place where we were safe as kids….had role models for teachers….wonderful churches to attend….and could be proud to have a festival called “Turkey Day” where we could dress in our jeans and plaid shirts and be part of “the family”….and now….we also have to realize what…what we have…in the diversities….that ADD to our hometown…and “look” through a lens of love and acceptance….and be thankful for a place called “home…”

  3. Thanks for article. My family on the farm loved “our town,” the many special people who influenced our lives and the opportunities it gave us to pursue our own interests.

  4. Your insight and willingness to speak to Worthington’s future should be a great help as the city moves forward. I see a few areas maybe you should think about working on. The first get encouraging development of a more diverse group of elected officials – city council, county board to name the two most important. Secondly, I see little evidence of community leadership (except for you and a few others) from those with more resources. The most recent example of this involvement was the generous million dollar gift to jump start the development of the old armory. I no longer live in Worthington but do return often and wish I were closer so I could enjoy more frequent visits and maybe even participate some how.

    Bill, keep up the good work.

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