Council hears from leadership class
Class members say city must improve connecting residents with resources
Building connections are what will help attract and keep young people in the Medford community.
That was the message from members of the 2021-2022 Leadership Medford Program with the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce. The group which, includes new and emerging business leaders in the community has been meeting since September learning about the community and how it works. Though the class, they have been working on an ongoing assignment addressing community needs.
Class members created and distributed a survey to area residents and received 242 responses. On Monday, group members presented their findings and recommendations to the Medford City Council during the committee of the whole meeting.
The largest demographic groups to respond to the survey included 35.27% who identified as being between 35 and 49 years old and 29.46% who identified as being 50 or older. About 15% of respondents were in the 28 to 34 age group. Over half of the respondents reported having a college degree, with 85% living in the Medford area and 82.23% working in the Medford area.
The survey focused on several areas including education and life skills training, social activities and support programs, careers, childcare availability, housing and other areas of interest.
Class member Courtney Jablonsky highlighted childcare, noting that 44.77% of respondents rated it as a concern. “If we bring adults back to the community, what are they going to do with their kids,” Jablonsky said, noting that this is something employers consider as they bring employees here. Class members said there have been recent positives such as the expansion of retail offerings with the opening of Shoe Sensations. Others said there was a real need for ways for young professionals to interact, calling for more social activities and networking events.
“If you are from Medford it is not as big of an issue,” Courtney said. However, she noted that people who come here and don’t know anyone feel isolated. Class members called for the community to offer more mindful opportunities for people to get together.
Class member Amanda Newberry noted there were gaps in communication with residents. She gave the example that with the construction on Perkins Street underway, she had to drive around and eventually get help to figure out how to get to the city hall by going down East Conrad Drive.
Respondents were also asked what they love about Medford.
Responses included: “Enjoy the small-town vibe and the community that the Chamber offers to its members.”
“They seem to come together when someone is in need.”
“I do love how walkable it is. I love walks and its something we can do with our dogs. The Riverwalk in particular is a truly great thing.” The respondent also noted how receptive city coordinator Joe Harris was when they asked the city to avoid using harmful chemicals in the Main Street Mini Park, noting they used non chemical means to control the weeds. “He did that just from a twominute conversation where he could see I was truly concerned. That never would have happened in Wausau.”
“As someone that’s lived here my entire life, there is an amazing sense of community. … Our community is so focused on working together across disciplines, listening to one another, generating ideas and feedback; not every county is so lucky. My grandparents had a business here, my parents have a business here. The support for the small town business is evident. I see a lot of gains in community improvement and involvement, especially over the last several years.”
In reviewing the data and, in particular, what were identified as being community needs, class members said they came to realize that it wasn’t that there was gaps in what was offered in the community, but rather there was a disconnect between what was available and what people in the community, especially newcomers, knew about. They proposed using social media more to promote support programs for mental health and addiction, professional and social networking events, and lunch and learn classes for different life skills.
Members of the city council asked several questions about the class project and thanked the class members for their report and the work they put in preparing it.
In other business, council members:
_ Recommended beginning the process to fill a longtime vacancy in the city hall front office staff. The clerical position has been vacant for several years and was most recently held by the late Rita Tischendorf. The recommendation to fill the position will go to next week’s city council meeting for final action.
_ Recommended granting a sixmonth liquor beer license to Medford City Baseball to operate the concessions at the baseball diamonds in the city park.
_ Recommended approval of the first set of beer and liquor license renewals. City clerk Ashley Lemke noted that all the licenses are due on June 30 but that there is a 15-day period before a new license can be issued from when the renewal paperwork is submitted. “We are trying to get them all captured in May so that they have it before their license expires,” said Lemke. She said there were about six establishments that have not turned in their paperwork.
_ Recommended approval of the existing tobacco licenses. Alderman Laura Holmes questioned if shops selling Vap items needed to also be licensed. Lemke said there is a gray area since the laws regulate tobacco sales rather than nicotine-based products. Harris noted that those items are not currently being regulated by the state, but that it may change in the future.
_ Recommended approval of the city of Medford outdoor recreation plan. This is needed in order for the city to qualify for grant programs with the state of Wisconsin for outdoor recreation improvements.