“Hold on … let me overreact.” I saw this on a coffee mug recently and it made me laugh. It represents everything I don’t want for our community. So often leaders use their voice to stir up dysfunction or broadcast what is wrong to get people — me and you — to (overre)act. I’m thankful that that’s not the way we work in Northfield.

Rhonda Pownell mug


Of course, we have no shortage of opinions here and no shortage of real problems that need solving. I spend my days immersed in both. I try not to shy away from identifying where we need to improve, and I always look for viable solutions. However, especially this weekend, I also want to focus on the many reasons we have to be thankful.

I’m so inspired by you. I’m grateful to be living among people who care so much about one another, who look past differences and work to make the whole community better. I’m thankful for your depth of knowledge, your experience, and your drive to make a difference.

I’m inspired by the level of giving to organizations like Community Action Center, HealthFinders and many others. Their missions to provide emergency housing, food for the hungry and quality health care for all are great examples of how much we all care for each other. I thank you for your continued support of these and the dozens of other organizations doing important work in Northfield.

The amount of time that you dedicate to volunteerism and making a difference on behalf of others is remarkable. Whether it’s reading to elementary youth, stocking the food shelf, coaching a youth sports team, cleaning up a local park or tapping into our deep creativity to bring artistry and entertainment to us all, you are what makes our small town so special. The relationships that we build through these many experiences make the fabric of our community healthy and vibrant.

Next week we will enjoy one of the most beautiful downtowns in Minnesota by candlelight. From caroling to horse-drawn wagon rides, hot apple cider, model trains and shops full of wonderful gifts, Winter Walk creates a warm and inviting space where people want to be, and so much of it is due to the work of volunteers who care about our town. I hope to see you downtown during this unique celebration of our community character.

Between giving back and getting ready, the holiday season can be overwhelming for anyone. My wish for you amidst the busyness of this holiday season is that you will take the time to be with your loved ones, to be refreshed and to refresh others through your words and actions. Perhaps you’ll join me in taking in a musical performance, building a snowman … or perhaps an Olaf.

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Rhonda Pownell is the mayor of Northfield.

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