2020 Year in Review
The year 2020 was both the longest and shortest year, go figure. It started out as any other new year, filled with hope and promise. Before the end of the first quarter, life in Caldwell, like the rest of the world, changed as Covid-19 took off. A pandemic in 2020 was not part of the plan, any plan, anywhere which was the ultimate reminder that as humans, we are not in charge, but are rather along for the ride. What a wild, scary, heartbreaking, yet somehow promising and hopeful ride 2020 was.
This year was set to be a year of planning for Caldwell’s big 150th birthday in 2021. It was a big year indeed, and many plans were made for our blowing out 150 candles, but party planning took a back seat to making sure basic needs of our citizens were being met. The health and well-being of Caldwell, like everywhere else, was at risk. How did Caldwell respond? Like the resilient, Border Queen she is!
Our essential workers have worked tirelessly for months, at the risk of their own health and that of their families, to keep Caldwell moving forward. Medical staff, City officials, teachers, businesses, and food service workers had to adapt quickly to a world that changed by the minute. In a nutshell, it was simply hard! Hard to think, imagine, breath, dream and plan. But we survived, with many positive outcomes still unfolding.
Things I know for sure several months into the pandemic: small, local communities and their farmlands, are what makes Kansas (and Oklahoma for our Okies) so great; our kids are in the most capable hands at USD 360; no one cares to hear opinions on masks; and politics sucks the life out of people. The open-air countryside surrounding Caldwell was truly a lifesaver when our schools and businesses shut down last spring. More families fished, country cruised, hunted, walked and hiked to stay active. Caldwell proved to be self-sufficient and sustainable during some of its most trying days in modern history.
We learned that we could buy or had access to everything needed to survive a pandemic, locally. Who would have ever thought people from larger cities would drive to Caldwell to buy toilet paper of all things? They did and very likely also got a taste of Caldwell's small-town charm on their tp mission. If you noticed something you were missing, you can be certain someone in Caldwell has thought about providing it or is actively working on it. Maybe that someone is you?
Like everywhere else, life at City Hall in 2020 was a whirlwind of adaptation and change due to the pandemic. At the heart of it, every decision made came with a brand new question for public officials, does this impact the health of our citizens and staff? Not that health and welfare hasn’t always been a part of local governing, but was something that was a given.
We have excellent healthcare systems at work in Caldwell and for that we have been spoiled. The biggest task for local officials became more about the greater good than ever before and how to help foster a safe, healthy community to ensure our local healthcare systems could continue to take care of our most vulnerable citizens. Doing nothing was not an option, doing too much, a fine line that everyone was figuring out in real-time. It was a difficult road to navigate, made worse by negative federal election politics, but our local, county and state officials did their part in keeping life as normal as humanly possible without hesitation because that’s what public servants do.
Our elected and appointed officials have worked very hard to minimize service interruptions, provide public health and safety initiatives, and promote economic development in difficult times. They have done an outstanding job!
Why is Caldwell so great, you ask? Quite simply, her people make her great. So great, the CIty has an unprecedented number of special projects currently underway. The new swimming pool is on track to be completed this spring. With just under a $1,000,000 CDBG award, the City took advantage of an opportunity to improve local quality of life amenity. A long term water system infrastructure improvement project began in 2020 to ensure Caldwell has clean, safe water well into the future. This project will construct a new water storage tank and move the current treatment facility within close proximity and is set for completion in 2023.
Housing is always a hot topic in Caldwell and 2020 proved that even in hard times, we can tackle tough issues. With wheels set in motion, a volunteer action team set out to complete a housing survey of the City. It was no shock to see the survey results proved Caldwell needs more viable housing. This March, the action team will present to a state housing board results of Caldwell’s housing survey and develop a plan to present to the City Commission. After trying numerous avenues to spark housing development, it is exciting to get some feedback from housing industry leaders across the state on current market trends and financing tools.
As we begin a new year, with the most beautiful snow, a reminder that better days are ahead for all of us in Caldwell. Days that hopefully include blowing out 150 candles, cemetery ghost tours, a cattle drive, honoring our pioneer families with our family and friends and so much more. Happy Birthday Caldwell, our treasured Border Queen, you deserve a BIG celebration!