With a population of roughly 5,000 people, with another 2,500 people coming here every day for work, Osceola is by no means a metropolis. In fact, in many ways it retains the charm of the quintessential American small town. That’s an element some residents are afraid to lose if things progress too quickly, but city leaders who’ve been around to see history in the making say we risk more by doing the opposite.
“The problem with little towns that are content to be where they are [is] they’re not going to stay anything,” said At-large Councilman Dr. George Fotiadis, who’s been on the Osceola City Council for 20 years. “Des Moines would love Clarke County to show no economic growth, no development, no population growth. They would love to simply have all the land gobbled up in big consolidated farms. They wouldn’t give a d*** if anybody did live in town, I think.”
He pointed to smaller towns where resources are so scarce the communities are on the verge of unincorporating.
“One thing that’s been encouraging over the years, I think this next generation, they don’t want to be Nowhereville in Dump County. They don’t want to be the 97th out of 99 counties in opportunity or economy. They don’t like the fact their kids have to move away to get jobs. They’re looking at opportunities here,” said Fotiadis. “It’s the only reason why I ran the last term.”
The change was a common thread running throughout the city council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 1.
For instance, due to the partnership between the city, the Clarke County Hospital and the Clarke County Development Corporation, the Safe Routes to School project is on track, with new sidewalks going in across town and new park trails being completed at record rates. Bill Trickey, executive director of the Clarke County Development Corporation, stopped by with a check for $56,250, bringing the CCDC’s total investment in local sidewalks and trails to $171,000.
“We’re not done,” said Trickey. “It’s a great use of casino money to do this kind of work in the community.”
Grant Wishon, local manager of the Iowa Firework’s Company sale tent, dropped off a check as well. The business donated five percent of proceeds, totaling $2,179, to Operation Recreation to help build a rec center in Osceola.
From investing in a new wastewater treatment plan to renovating dilapidated buildings on the Square, the city continues to grow and expand. The impact can be seen from one end of town to another.
“A lot of people have got on board and are doing a better job,” said Dennis Page, citing the city’s new Spirit of Osceola Award as one simple incentive to help get things moving in the right direction.
“Our Mayor’s got the right idea,” said Fotiadis. “We can’t stop. We’ve got to clean up, we’ve got to change, we’ve got to upgrade or we won’t matter. If we do not make ourselves appealing, we will become irrelevant.”
In other words, if people want to keep the benefits Osceola already has, the only way to go is forward. Thankfully, there are ample opportunities for people from all walks of life to be involved in that process.
“I probably will be gone off council – or thrown off – by the time some of this stuff gets done,” he said, “but it’s okay as long as it keeps getting done.”