Chatfield may bill itself as Bandtown USA, but there's a lot more to the southeastern Minnesota city of 2,800 than its internationally known Brass Band Sheet Music Lending Library.
Mayor Don Hainlen thinks it's time that state politicians get that straight. Ever since then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty cited Chatfield's sheet music library as an example of "misguided priorities" in the 2008 bonding bill, the little town's development ideas have taken a rhetorical beating at the Capitol.
When House Majority Leader Matt Dean made disparaging mention last week of a state bonding request for a "sheet music museum," Hainlen had enough. He fired off a letter to make several points: There is no sheet music museum.
The sheet music lending library isn't asking for state assistance. The Chatfield Center for the Arts is -- for $7 million, to be exact -- because it's a job-creating, tourism-generating project with regional significance that's housed in an historic public building in need of repair.
Hainlen cited enough community history to pique this amateur historian's interest. For example: 300 Chatfield boys and men served in the Union Army in the Civil War and were crucial to the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga.
A year earlier, Chatfield Lt. Thomas Gere and his troops held Fort Ridgely and suffered considerable loss of life in the Dakota Conflict. A Chatfield man, Walter Halloran, took famous photos of the D-Day landing at Normandy. Two Chatfield fellows, Pat Halloran and Keith Rogers, were pioneering spy-plane pilots during the Cold War.
The city is the home of a leading manufacturer of wooden office furniture and composite/fiberglass tools, as well as other successful employers, the mayor said. The sheet music lending library established by Chatfield band man James Perkins houses more than 30,000 pieces and serves patrons around the world. It sought state help to upgrade its cramped, too-humid quarters at the urging of visiting legislators in 2008, and have been rewarded with undeserved scorn ever since.
"The rich history of Chatfield demonstrates that it takes creativity to develop business and create jobs, and it takes creative opportunities to develop and maintain a quality workforce, which is the premise of the Chatfield Center for the Arts," Hainlen wrote.
It seems like a fine premise for a robust 2012 bonding bill, too.