Two years ago April 1 I became interim editor of the Daily Freeman-Journal.

I distinctly recall the look on Doug Getter’s face when I explained that I would step in for two months to lead the DFJ in the wake of Managing Editor Anne Blankenship’s departure for a new position with Van Diest Medical Center.

He rolled his eyes.

Two months turned into two years.

A lot can happen to a community in two years.

New businesses opened, old businesses closed and then some of them reopened.

The failure of an unstable building threatened a beloved coffee shop.

Fire ravaged a downtown building, turning our beautiful main street into a barricaded maze for a while and closing the historic movie house that had so tenderly been restored by a group of hard-working, well-meaning citizens.

Barricades went up around yet another historic masonry building.

Jeff Habhab bought the historic post office to save it.

With each tick of the clock, the monumental Elks Building downtown inched even further towards its remarkable renewal.

With investments, Kwik Star and Fareway sent their roots deeper into this soil.

Somewhere in those two years, we lost another city leadership team when City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez and Assistant City Manager Biridiana Bishop moved on to other jobs.

Our town’s story is one of change.

But that is nothing new. Webster City, and its greater area of Hamilton County, have always risen and ebbed with the tide of life.

This two-year period — April 1, 2022, to April 1, 2024 — has been no different.

Before I became interim, I joined the many alarmed voices who packed the council chamber of City Hall in Webster City to express dismay that a short-lived city manager — not Ortiz-Hernandez — thought it was a good idea to sell East Twin Park to a development firm that would construct a building it would rent to Dollar General.

Boy, was he wrong.

With the kind of energy citizens can summon when they work together, that idea failed spectacularly, the short-term city manager went away, and the park in question sprouted activity in a way only a spring metaphor can match. On favorable days, East Twin Park is a mecca of activity for all ages and just about every outdoor recreational desire.

In this spirit, on Thursday, Webster City broke ground on a new splash pad in East Twin Park. By summer, it should be in full swing. Yes, I did at one time suggest it might not be a good idea to spend money on a splash pad. Some people agreed with me.

The decision went the other way.

Let’s move on, because we have important work to do.

Now there’s a new interim in town. John Harrenstein, Webster City’s interim city manager, has sailed in on a wind of fresh thinking. His is an energy that immediately began gathering the threads of disparate ideas by meeting with their disparate supporters in an earnest search for meaningful, lasting growth and continuity.

It is a strategy that works.

Like another interim I know, his goal is not to simply change — one can do that with a haircut — but to connect, refine, educate and act with this greater community’s best interests at heart. That is the way forward.

We have witnessed our challenges.

There will be more.

Bring it on.

In the waters of life, you can flee or lean in. I know what the interims will choose.

Jane Curtis is interim editor of the Daily Freeman-Journal.


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