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Program gives local insight

ABOVE: Colby Whitmore, assistant fire chief, and Bryan Kasting, fire chief, share information about the Fairmont Fire Department and its operations with members of Leadership Martin County during public safety day earlier this month at the Fairmont Fire Station.

FAIRMONT– Residents of Martin County have the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of local businesses and organizations through the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Martin County Program.

Last offered in 2021, the program started up again in September and has been held a full day each month and will go through May. This time around, there are just under 20 people in it.

Chamber President, Kandi Menne, said the idea behind the program is to educate participants on Martin County resources, values, strengths, weaknesses and challenges.

“It’s really for everyone. It’s an opportunity for a deep dive into our local government and amenities. It gives participants the opportunity to not only learn from others in the group, but learn from local officials and visit places they’ve never been or even thought about going to,” Menne said.

Each of the sessions in the program has a different theme, which includes education, economic development, government, healthcare, public safety, quality of life, agriculture and culture and diversity.

“We feel the themes we have really encompass the different aspects from economic to agriculture,” Menne said.

On the opening session, the group members met each other and took a strength-finders assessment. The facilitator, Peggy Young with Riverland Community College, then spoke about the assessment. Since then, the group has been busy touring places around town.

“No one had ever been way up at the top of the courthouse in the records department. We went to city hall and did a mock council meeting. People got to visit the water treatment plant,” Menne said.

Most recently for the month of February it was public safety day. For that participants got to tour the fire station and ask questions of department members, as well as tour the Law Enforcement Center, dispatch center and talk to the school resource officer and drug enforcement officer.

Fairmont Fire Chief Bryan Kasting said, “I enjoy telling people what we do because a lot of people don’t know what we do– it’s good for them to see what we do. A lot of people think we just handle fires but it’s a lot more than that.”

Menne said that the program is open to Martin County residents who want to learn more about the community. She said they’ve had people go through the program who have lived here their entire life and gotten so much out of the program.

“It’s cool. Even me, I lived here, moved away and came back, and there are places I hadn’t been,” Menne said.

Of course, the program is beneficial for people who are new to the community, too. A lot of businesses will pay the tuition for one of their employees to go through the program, especially if they’re new to the area.

“The majority of people, their business will pay the tuition and depending on how much we get for sponsorships, we can give partial scholarships for tuitions,” Menne said.

She said the Chamber continues to offer the program because it’s not only good for the business sector, but for the people in the community.

“We hope to max out our opportunity and have a waiting list in the future. Because we won’t offer it until 2025, if people are interested we can put them on the waiting list because we’re anticipating to exceed our capacity,” Menne said.

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