Ottawa, Illinois: Soon to be home

800px-Ottawa_Il_Washington_Park_Historic_District_Lincoln-Douglas_Statues1Waterfall in Starved Rock State Park

Ottawa, IL is a community of 18,300 residents in North Central Illinois’ LaSalle County. It’s the county seat, the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and an important stop on the Underground Railroad. That’s Downtown Ottawa in the header picture.

Unlike the flatlands surrounding Chicago, Ottawa is geographically blessed, sitting on the shore of the Illinois River and just a few miles from Starved Rock State Park (Pictured). This is something I’m particularly excited about.  I’ve been missing the outdoors since leaving New England 20 years ago and yearning to get some big nature back in my life.

From an industry standpoint, the area is best known for its sand, which has long been used in glass and abrasives manufacturing. But overall, the town has a mixed and not terribly healthy economy. A number of large, vacant storefronts spoil the landscape, and priority one will be getting these eyesores put back to productive use.

Judging from reader comments on the current town paper’s Web site, the community seems to be having trouble accommodating diversity, and, as in most places, crime, drugs and the economy weigh heavy on residents’ minds. Family and Little League matter. I like that.

At this point, my No. 1 priority is getting to know the people, learn what matters to them and gain their trust. It’s always a challenge to get past the “outsider” stigma in any community, especially when you’re assuming the role of arbiter of their news. All I have to go on is the integrity and concern I’ve brought to every audience in my career, patience, and trust earned through quality work.

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