This week, I had the privilege of breaking bread with my good friend and mentor Tom Kelly, founder and publisher of the Piney Woods Journal. The 85-year old newspaper man has seen it all. Once the publisher of the Ruston Daily Leader, Kelly was involved in a newspaper group owned by Robert Fackelman’s Newspaper Service Company, Inc. This company also owned the Minden Press-Herald for a stint. In fact, Kelly hired and trained my father.
During the course of our conversation, Kelly noted that he had tracked the population of the communities with newspapers once owned by Fackelman during his tenure. Ruston was the only community that saw growth, nearly tripling in size since his arrival in 1962.
While certainly not the only factor, Kelly noted that Ruston, despite its factions and cliques, was unified in wanting a bigger, better community.
As a result of that exchange, I wondered about Minden’s lack of growth in comparison to Ruston. It is easy to point fingers and say things like, “Well they have Louisiana Tech, and we lost the Ammunition Plant.”
However, to the factor of a community unified toward growth, I have to note it hasn’t been the case in Minden for many years, perhaps never.
Minden is full of factions, cliques, political groups, etc. Within those groups there are those that want to see Minden growth. Sadly, there have been those who want to keep Minden small. They see growth as a threat to the idea of Minden being “Mayberry,” the quaint town on the Andy Griffith show where the only criminal in town was the town drunk, and everyone knew everyone. Well, Minden hasn’t been “Mayberry” for quite a long time.
I have heard stories of those in economic development circles through the 1980s and 1990s about the obstructive nature of those opposed to growth. These obstructions greatly discouraged those wanting to make positive change.
Those not totally opposed to growth often got mired in a “what’s in it for them” mindset. They wanted to protect their influence or power, often at the expense of true progress.
But, that is not the end of the story. Over the past couple of years, Minden has seen a groundswell of those wanting to see sustained growth and improvement of the community. From the addition of an Economic Development Director at the City, to a reinvigorated Main Street Board, things are starting to come together. We truly have a great opportunity in our community.
We also have a batch of capable, energized, and passionate young men and women stepping up to start businesses, volunteer in the community, and make things happen. We need to foster and encourage them.
To those that want Minden to stay the same, I am afraid that simply isn’t possible. As many of our similar communities have learned, those that don’t change for the better, wither away. The Minden of today must become a bigger and better Minden of tomorrow.
Regardless of faction or clique, we must unite behind the idea of growth and improvement. Then, and only then, will positive change take place. This is a long-term commitment, but it must start now. The choice is ours.
David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.