Friday, June 30, 2017

Politicians in St. Paul and Washington could learn from Mankato

By Leigh Pomeroy and Joe Sullivan

Leigh Pomeroy is a former educator and soccer referee. Joe Sullivan is a lawyer who works for the Center for Energy and Environment. Both live in Mankato, Minnesota.

A few weekends back we were honored to participate in the Mankato SoccerFest, a gathering of youth soccer teams from throughout southern Minnesota for a day of fun and friendly competition. Joe participated as a coach and Leigh as a referee mentor.

Organized by Mankato United Soccer, the gathering took place on dozens of fields in North Mankato. Literally hundreds of young soccer players, parents and fans, coaches and referees played, cheered, encouraged and officiated at the event.

There were scores of volunteers that made this event happen. But they were not the only ones who deserve accolades for its success. For SoccerFest and the Caswell fields on which it was played are a product of a cooperation that we too often take for granted in the greater Mankato region, and indicative of our governments, nonprofits and businesses working together to make our area a special place.

Case in point: The Caswell soccer fields came about through a partnership between Mankato United Soccer Club and the City of North Mankato, the club providing the funds and the city supplying the land. Further, there was no conflict between Mankato and North Mankato as the two cities have agreed that they would not compete with each other to put up athletic fields for soccer, baseball, softball and football; rather, they were going to coordinate.

Upon stepping onto the fields, we were greeted with numerous small signs indicating the businesses who were proud to support the event, providing the third leg of the three-legged stool: nonprofits plus governments plus businesses working together to make our community great.

There are many examples of such cooperation in our area. For example, Leigh is a member of the A.M. Exchange Club, the group that supplies the animal feed machines in Sibley Park. From the machines, the group raises about $10,000 per year to parcel out to nonprofits in the community. The nonprofits speak to the club, each once a year, to apprise the club members of their activities. To a one, an underlying theme always emerges: the theme of cooperation with other nonprofits, with governments, with the business community.

Another example: Our area is honored to have Greater Mankato Growth to represent area businesses. In too many other communities, business groups fight city hall and oppose bonding measures for schools. Not so Greater Mankato Growth, which actively works with our city and county governments, supports our schools and partners with our nonprofits.

It's easy to go on: the success of our United Way; the active engagement of our churches, community organizations and service clubs; the many projects of our schools and the YMCA; the services provided by the Minnesota Valley Action Council and MRCI — all these are dependent upon cooperation.

If our greater Mankato region can do this, why not the politicians in St. Paul and Washington, DC? Why can't they show the same spirit of cooperation for the betterment of us all?

It is anathema that too many state and federal elected leaders expend so much time and effort — and so many taxpayer dollars — catering to dissent and conflict instead of encouraging cooperation.

Let these leaders come to the Mankato region and spend time here. Perhaps they could learn something from us and take that knowledge back to their respective seats of power. And hopefully then realize that it's better for everyone to work together.

This opinion piece was also published in the Mankato Free Press.

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