By Jan Spurgeon Centerville Mayor
The Daily Iowegian
---- — Centerville, “America’s hometown.” Centerville, “Home of the world’s largest square.” Centerville, “You can’t describe it, you just have to go there.” Centerville, “Welcome home.” These are just a few of the brands depicting Centerville that have been documented or suggested over the recent past and present.
Inside my front entryway at my home is a sign greeting guests that reads, “Home is where your story begins.” Graced among framed photos of childhood and family homes, for me personally the inscription pertains to my roots, my family, love, peace, comfort, security, pride and humility.
But on a more encompassing scale, what does Centerville mean to you? What or who brought you here? What attracted you to come here and make this your home? What has changed over the years? What defines Centerville to you? In other words, let’s share some stories as to why you call Centerville home. Let me begin…
I moved here in 1972 as a single mom to live close to my job. As a stranger to a foreign community, my focus was on working and raising my son, but he required child-care, so I sought the best fit for all. Even though the providers have long-since left this community, we still remain friends! This to me was critical as to why I chose to make Centerville my home…the relationship and the eternal bond that was formed out of an essential need. Centerville was becoming my friend.
It wasn’t until 1975 and a new job in the downtown retail district that I began to participate in the “fun stuff”! I fell in love with Pancake Day! Of course, I had just met my late husband and his family that summer, so things were beginning to look up for my son and me as well. Married in 1976 and a new son and home in 1977, our blended family was taking root.
From that point forward, it didn’t take long to get involved in church and school activities, Booster Club, Chamber of Commerce, Mainstreet, city government, community betterment activities to name a few….countless opportunities to meet more people, build relationships, make a difference.
And I think that’s where we’re at today…introducing to others ways to get involved, to assist in finding opportunities to meet their needs, to communicate well between entities, to come together to share our ideas on how to make Centerville a “destination,” whether that might be to visit, shop or to live, work, play, worship and raise families, then to put those ideas into action.
As most rural communities, we’ve certainly had our share of ups and downs. But it’s our true grit and determination that prevails and prevents us from ever giving up. It’s been said that history repeats itself. Whether inside or outside of city government, I have watched the pendulum swing both ways over 20 year cycles. During high periods of growth, much progress in infrastructure and economic development has occurred. Today we stand at that critical point in time to move this community forward! But before we can move Centerville forward, let’s take a look back in recent history.
I put out an appeal for others to share what makes Centerville special to them. I have heard from visitors, former residents and current residents. Many have lauded, “It’s the people.” Some have pointed out iconic establishments such as Raymond’s and Double R and George n’ Nick’s, the Blue Bird and numerous others. Others have heralded the architecture in and around the historic square district and down Drake Avenue, the museum, homes, churches and other structures worthy of preserving their integrity.
I’ve witnessed out-of-towners who chose Centerville to invest in and renovate houses while living here and choosing to call this “home,” all the while expressing their awe for the freedom and for feeling safe in their new neighborhood setting.
Then there are the transplants who have chosen to come home to their roots for various reasons, but mainly for the purpose of doing business, of raising their family, of getting involved in community activities and to make a difference not only in their lives but for those to whom they may pass the proverbial baton.
One of the most poignant remarks I received that could perhaps best define Centerville was from my friend and neighbor Brenda Fry regarding the pride that swelled up in all of us when the late Master Sgt. U.S. Marine Travis Riddick was brought “home” to receive the honor and respect he so well deserved from his Centerville family. From our airport to the destination, honor guards and flags and ordinary people lined the streets to humbly express and pay tribute to our fallen hero. There can never be expressed enough our respect and appreciation for all whom have served our country. The very best comes out in us when we are faced with times that test our very souls.
All we have to do is look around, and we need not look far for a plethora of ways not only to enjoy the amenities our area offers but also to expose them to others by invitation. Our destination park, Honey Creek and Rathbun Lake should no longer be the best kept secret in southern Iowa. Our Sharon Bluffs and Lelah Bradley parks and reservoirs should be respected and enjoyed by not only locals but guests as well. We have a tremendous school district with the finest teachers and administrators available to answer to most any situation, let alone teach and lead our youngsters onto greatness and offering multiple extra-curricular activities. Indian Hills Community College offers a wide array of career opportunities as well.
We have an incredibly robust historic downtown retail and business district full of vitality. We offer community enhancement opportunities with the museum, summer municipal band concerts, community theater, dance, wellness programs through the YMCA and others, outdoor recreational activities in hunting, fishing, boating, All Play sporting events, golf courses, diverse and delectable dining and restaurant experiences, a full-service hospital with long-term care facilities and other services, additional rehab and extended care facilities, professional groups and organizations, veterans groups and assistance, more church and volunteer organizations than one could ever hope for in which to find ones comfort zone.
Your city is making your community safer with ALICE training in the schools for teachers and staff and with a resource officer on duty. Police and fire are constantly in training to be better prepared to protect the citizens. Public works personnel continually work to upgrade your city streets and sidewalks, water and waste-water quality, planning and preparation for swimming pool improvements, park(s) upgrades, offering latest state-of-the-art resources by our library, building official and code compliance officer to assist in keeping us all protected by enforcing building and renovation regulations and ADA compliance codes, continual modernization to the airport, animal control and many more unseen things to make this a better place.
Those things being said, as your mayor, I believe everyone has value and has the potential to add positive value to the community. I am working to recognize and market people’s skills; I will continue to build relationships not only individually but with groups as well; I will work to encourage pride in all aspects of living and working here; I will continue to work toward a clean and healthy environment; I will continue to support our school system, including IHCC, and county government; I hope to inspire others to build strong coalitions for the purpose of doing what’s good and right and healthy for all concerned.
The recurring theme throughout this article is “the people.” Let us all work together to make Centerville a “home” you will be proud of. Let your story begin.