STAFFORD — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) had presented 10 other “Building Better Communities” awards during his time as a U.S. Congressman.
But the recognition for the community of Stafford Saturday was his first time he had recognized a community for his special recognition as a U.S. Senator. The “Building Better Communities” award spotlights positive community action in Kansas and shows how creative thinking and teamwork make a positive difference.
“This is the first time as a U.S. Senator that we’ve seen this opportunity to hold you up as a role model,” Moran said. “It’s an honor for me to be here — to recognize something that is special and unique. It demonstrates a community that has decided it wants a future. Stafford is going to have good days today and better days tomorrow.
“What motivated me to run for public office is we live our lives in small-town Kansas in a special way. I want to make certain the places we all call home are around for a while longer. It is this belief that we are unique and different. It is a sense of community, caring for our neighbors and the roles our churches and schools play in our community. We all work together to make a good life for everyone.”
Moran presented awards to Clayton Grimmett, Stafford Enterprises president, Stafford Mercantile; Gemma Austin, Stafford school board president, Stafford High’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center; Todd Taylor, Stafford County Hospital administrator, Stafford County Hospital; and Stafford Mayor Dennis Bronson.
The city of Stafford has preserved a local variety store, supported the Stafford County Hospital and launched an innovative educational program.
“If we lose Main Street, our hospital, our school, we lose our community,” Moran said. “What’s special is you are a community that decided to make a difference. It’s a great story, a role model for other communities. We want to highlight what you did.”
Stafford Mercentile opened after the Duckwall Store left town. Stafford Mercantile sells a wide variety of items ranging from cleaning supplies, snack food and dozens of other common household items.
“The community that loses a merchandise store can look at that as a defeat, but Stafford did something different,” Moran said. “They decided it was worth having their citizens remain in the community.”
Declining population and reduced Medicare reimbursement rates and rising healthcare costs created a $550,000 deficit for the Stafford County Hospital. But Taylor led the preservation of Stafford County Hospital.
“If you lose your hospital, you lose your town,” Moran said. “Young people will not keep their families in a town without access to healthcare. Senior citizens can reluctantly move away. They don’t want to move away from the people you know and their hometown.”
Stafford Superintendent Mary Jo Taylor started the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Center at Stafford High School. The center equips high school students with training to become successful entrepreneurs.
“I love the way your school took an important issue about the future of a community and add it to the educational program. It’s an opportunity to teach our children about the value of work and how to start a business. You are teaching the value of entrepreneurship and the free market system.”