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Education

Marion, Iowa: A Community Transformed – From Vision to Vibrancy, the 2023 Community of the Year”

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown,Marion  Lexi Matthews and her fiancé found themselves reevaluating their life in Chicago. Unexpectedly, they made the decision to move back to Marion, Iowa.

READ: OAS to Step in as Mediator in Guatemala’s Power Transition Crisis

Marion

Reflecting on her childhood in Marion, Lexi initially had low expectations for the town. However, she soon discovered that Marion had become a vibrant and exciting place. Lexi and her fiancé now own Uptown Coffee Company, contributing to the town’s thriving atmosphere.

Marion’s transformation into the 2023 Community of the Year wasn’t accidental. Elected officials, business owners, civic leaders, and residents collaborated to create an appealing small town. The focus was on enhancing the quality of life, and this effort did not go unnoticed.

Marion’s success story involves strategic investments in quality-of-life projects, transparent communication, and a strong sense of community belonging. The mayor, Nick AbouAssaly, emphasized a customer service approach to governance, prioritizing residents’ needs and concerns.

Marion’s journey began in 2007 when Jill Ackerman, the Chamber of Commerce president, sought funding for community development projects. Engaging over 5,000 residents in envisioning the town’s future, Marion prioritized projects based on community input. Clear communication and collaboration paved the way for successful initiatives.

The town’s growth was propelled by shovel-ready projects that attracted grant money, coupled with community donations. Notable projects include the Uptown Artway, a revitalized YMCA community center, and a state-of-the-art library functioning as a community hub.

Mayor AbouAssaly praised the collaborative spirit, pointing to projects like the Uptown Artway, which transformed a back alley into a vibrant space with sculptures and events. Marion residents also embraced new facilities like the YMCA and a modern library, fostering community engagement.

As Marion invested $172 million in capital projects over a decade, residents actively participated in the decision-making process. The projects covered areas such as transportation, public works, utility infrastructure, culture, recreation, public safety, and general government.

Marion secured $17 million in grant revenue, utilizing funding sources like local option sales tax, general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, grants, and utility funds. The community’s commitment to transparency and collaboration resulted in successful endeavors.

Looking ahead, Marion continues to pursue new projects, like “The Heart of It All,” featuring a refrigerated ice loop, an enclosed pavilion, a water feature, and public art installations. Residents, appreciative of Marion’s history, are preserving elements like the renovated railroad caboose within a historical park.

Lexi Matthews, embodying the town’s spirit, appreciates Marion’s growth while maintaining a balance with its rich history. As Marion’s vibrant community looks to the future, residents feel fortunate to be part of a town that values collaboration and progress.

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