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Wadena City Council member Don Niles left and Mayor Wayne Wolden showed a photo tornado destruction.

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Wadena mayor: Tornado recovery

  • Article by: WAYNE WOLDEN
  • June 15, 2012 - 7:14 PM

Sunday marks the two-year anniversary of the EF4 tornado that ravaged Wadena, damaging over 400 homes, 20 businesses, the community center, ice arena and our high school. Over many months, hundreds of Minnesotans helped us clear debris, attend to loved ones and cope with this natural disaster. For that, we remain eternally grateful.

The volunteers didn't care about political affiliations or special interests -- they just cared about getting the job done. Catholics stood with Lutherans, Republicans with Democrats, and Tea Party members with government workers. Everyone was just there doing the right thing to lend a helping hand.

When media attention subsided, the people of Wadena didn't waste time feeling sorry for ourselves. We continued working on restoring normalcy as best we could to our little town of 4,100 in central Minnesota.

We replanted thousands of trees, repaired miles of roads and sidewalks, and planned for rebuilding the Wadena County Fairgrounds, local ice arena, city parks and infrastructure. Our city was honored to receive the Initiative Foundation's Community Achievement Award in 2011 for strong teamwork and leadership in the face of disaster.

But truly, our recovery has been a team effort among the people of Wadena and our federal, state and local government partners.

With the help of FEMA, we were able to construct our new high school, which will open again in the fall. We also utilized $750,000 from the state in 2010 to design and plan the Wadena Regional Wellness Center to replace our destroyed community center.

Today, we're working to secure the additional resources to complete this project through a new state bonding grant program created by the Legislature this session.

The road to recovery for Wadena remains long. Much work remains. But the attitude that struck Wadena the day after the disaster remains strong. Our community is interested in solving problems, so we will keep working hard to fully recover.

The tornado showed us that when faced with a tough situation, a great Minnesota still exists. This is a model our state should follow even when disaster doesn't strike. We ought to work together every day as if a tornado hit us yesterday.

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Wayne Wolden is mayor of Wadena.

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