Category: Simply Put

Simply Put – May 9, 2018

By Mike Whittlesey
The success of local government depends upon more than just the handful of elected officials who are sworn in every four years. It’s even more than the dedicated individuals who serve as employees of the City. It’s true the importance of leadership from the mayor’s office and a responsive City Council working on behalf of the citizens they represent cannot be overstated. Equally important are the contributions city employees make each day to deliver essential and recreational services to residents of the City.
The real strength behind city government, though, the force that makes it work (or not work, in some cases) can be summarized in one word: people. When Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins visited Union High School last November, he spoke about the important role people play in a democratic republic form of government. In a true democracy, he explained, every citizen has a direct vote on deciding the laws of the land. In the United States, where the form of government is a republic, the responsibility for making laws is given to representatives chosen by the people. That means actively engaged citizens can make a big difference in how well the governing process plays out.
In La Porte City, there are a number of boards and commissions staffed by volunteer citizens who play an important role in serving the people of the community. It is interesting to note that the membership rosters of these boards (30) more than doubles the number of full-time City employees (13). Clearly, the active participation of La Porte City citizens is an important piece of the local government pie.
Given the voluntary makeup of these local boards and commissions, there are regular vacancies that naturally occur, as members’ terms expire. Currently, the City is looking for members to help fill openings on the Board of Adjustment, Parks and Recreation Commission and the Hawkins Memorial Library Board of Trustees.
If “too busy” or “not qualified” are thoughts that keep you from serving your fellow citizens as a member on one of these volunteer boards, please take a moment to reconsider that notion. When it comes to time, commitment to one monthly meeting is usually all that is required. And with a City staff member serving on each board as a liaison to assist members, caring about your community is the only real qualification needed.
It’s a particularly exciting time to serve on the Hawkins Memorial Library Board of Trustees, as the local library’s service to patrons, wealth of program offerings and circulation of materials continue to rank it near the top of its class among libraries throughout the state.
Additional information about the vacancies on the Board of Adjustment and Parks and Recreation Commission can be found on page online at
For those who choose to serve their fellow citizens on the half-dozen boards and commissions related to La Porte City government, there is a sense of accomplishment knowing they are making the most of an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the community.
Try it. You just may like it.

Simply Put – May 2, 2018

It’s not often that the general public gets a peek “behind the curtain” when law enforcement is involved in an active investigation. Last week, though, in a guest column that appeared in the Waterloo Courier, Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson did just that, reflecting on the massive search effort in La Porte City to locate missing teen, Jake Wilson.
As this edition of The Progress Review goes to press, the case continues to frustrate those who have been searching for Jake since the night of his disappearance on April 7. Despite the best efforts of thousands of volunteers, local police and firefighters, in addition to the highly trained agents that comprise an impressive task force, Jake Wilson remains among the missing.
In his essay, Thompson addressed the tremendous local response from area residents to help find Jake.
“Those good-hearted volunteers skipped work to help the search. They remained dedicated despite sometimes horrible weather conditions — snow, rain, hail, sleet, rising creek and river levels and 39-degree water that varied from a few inches deep to over your head.
“I am humbled and honored by their efforts.”
It’s one thing to have hundreds of people volunteer their time to search for a missing person. Managing such an effort, to ensure the search is carried out thoroughly and efficiently, is another matter altogether.
“The logistics of how to feed, outfit, keep safe, coordinate, assign locations, communicate and ensure proper equipment for so many staff and volunteers is easily lost when all you see are a few photos or a brief video on the evening news,” Thompson wrote.
In his guest column, Sheriff Thompson referenced the number of experts from around the nation who were consulted with during the early stages of the investigation.
“On day three, an expert from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was on scene. The former homicide detective from Chicago flew in during our first snow storm. He gave advice and provided information and assistance. He later wrote me that our staffs ‘implemented the most coordinated and thorough search and rescue operations I have ever witnessed. Everyone can hold their heads up high, knowing that all that could have been done, has been done.’”
“Chief Brecher and I worked tirelessly beside some of the bravest, finest, most dedicated professionals in the fire, police and EMS/EMA disciplines on this planet. Our volunteers gave us their very best efforts in unrelenting conditions. But I and my colleagues made a promise to the family. While I hold my head high for having been blessed to work with all these folks in very rough conditions, we have not yet done the one thing we promised to do — bring Jake home.”
As the search and investigation continues, La Porte City residents can be thankful for the exceptional effort and determination Sheriff Thompson, La Porte City Chief of Police Chris Brecher, the many investigators and emergency personnel continue to put forth in the effort to bring Jake home. As Sheriff Thompson wrote at the conclusion of his essay:
“The work continues until that time.”

Simply Put – April 18, 2018

Defined as “a useful and desirable thing or quality,” it’s a word that’s been used often by law enforcement officers in the days following the disappearance of La Porte City teen Jake Wilson.
While it may feel like a dark cloud has been skulking above La Porte City as the community waits and prays for Jake’s safe return, this incident reminds us of the many assets that exist within our community of 2,200 people.
From the very beginning, countless examples of the best humanity has to offer have been on display in our small town. On that fateful Saturday night, when word that Jake was missing came in, it was La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher and the city’s Public Safety Clerk, Katie Davison, who immediately reported for duty. By the time hundreds of volunteers arrived the next morning to assist with the search, they were still on the job, having worked throughout the night coordinating the effort to bring Jake home.
As the search for the teen continued, community assets have kept coming forward. Following a public plea to help search some 255 square miles of terrain in and around La Porte City, more than 2,000 volunteers gave freely of their time over a four day period. When the operation required all-terrain vehicles to take the search across farm fields and the green belt, the task force soon had more than 120 ATVs and UTVs at their disposal. Members of the La Porte City police and fire departments have been working overtime, 18 hour days, in some cases. Others have stepped forward to prepare and serve meals. If the operation had a need, it seemed someone was always at the ready to respond.
Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson was clear from the beginning. As places where Jake might be were systematically eliminated, the public could expect the investigation side of the operation to build and intensify, he said.
True to his word, it didn’t take long for dozens of representatives from local, state and federal agencies to arrive in La Porte City and begin the detailed work of examining the hundreds of leads and pieces of possible evidence the case has generated. Assets like drones, canine police units, horses and the aforementioned ATVs soon gave way to professionals with specialized investigatory from a host of agencies.
Sadly, after a week of searching, the statistics on missing children paint a less than rosy picture. As the length of time searching for a missing child increases, the liklihood of a favorable outcome typically decreases.
In a handful of days, it is amazing the number of lives Jake Wilson has touched. From the hundreds of people involved in his search and the investigators and specialists from agencies throughout the midwest, to those following the story by way of media coverage, so very many people now have a connection to this special young man.
As we wait and we wonder, this much we do know: It is the same unconditional love and support offered up by caring citizens in and around La Porte City that will define how our community moves forward in the coming days, regardless the outcome of the ongoing investigation into Jake Wilson’s disappearance.

Simply Put – April 11, 2018

When was the last time you visited a library? If the image of a crabby lady with a bun hairstyle saying, “Shhh!” immediately comes to mind, it’s probably been too long.
Those of us with cell phones, tablets and wireless internet access, where books and magazines are purchased with one tap or click, might question the need for a public library. With Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant at our beck and call 24/7, who needs a library anyway?
Well, in La Porte City, it so happens all kinds of people do, as Hawkins Memorial Library is a very busy place, inside and out. And that’s a very good thing.
Inside the building located at 308 Main Street, you’ll find a bevy of activity in the form of programs offered for people of all ages. Where else can you watch a family-friendly movie with popcorn, build a LEGO masterpiece or go online to do a little research and catch up on Facebook? Need to have a test proctored for work? Hawkins Memorial Library can help you with that too.
Outside, don’t be surprised to find someone seated on a bench or in their car, taking advantage of the free wi-fi service the library provides. Of course, the wi-fi is free to use inside, as well.
This week is the 60th annual celebration of National Library Week. Libraries aren’t just places to borrow books or study—they’re also creative and engaging community centers where people can collaborate using new technologies and develop their skills and passions. This is especially true in La Porte City, thanks to the outstanding service provided by Library Director Jolene Kronschnabel and the staff of Assistant Librarians- Jan DeWitt, Charline Moine and Laurie Rife.
As a member of the Hawkins Memorial Library Board of Trustees, it’s very exciting to see the number of people who take advantage of the many programs the library offers. It’s also encouraging to see the public’s demand for the wide range of materials La Porte City’s library provides to area citizens, free of charge. Hawkins Memorial Library consistently ranks near the top of libraries in its class in terms of patron visits, materials circulated and participation in library programs.
If you haven’t visited the local library lately, this week would be a good time to check out what Hawkins Memorial Library has to offer. Just don’t expect to find a bun-haired, crabby lady on “Shhh!” patrol.

Simply Put – December 20, 2017

By Mike Whittlesey
Gracing the cover of The Progress Review’s annual holiday edition are the lyrics of a popular Christmas hymn, Joy to the World. Many variations of the song have been produced by recording artists over the years. Some of the more recognizable versions have been sung by Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Whitney Houston, Nat King Cole, Neil Diamond and Mariah Carey.
While each artist adds their own unique interpretation to the performance of the song, Joy to the World is also easily recognized as an instrumental piece. The Progress Review’s annual Lights of La Porte City slideshow, which can viewed online on our Facebook page, features a rendition performed by Doug Hammer.
The story of how Joy to the World came to be is an interesting one that dates back 300 years. When Isaac Watts composed the hymn in 1719, it came at a time when songs that accompanied worship services were little more than a recitation of psalms or scripture set to music.
As the story goes, Watts found the practice boring and complained of the congregation’s seeming indifference as they recited passages in what he thought was a monotonous fashion. His father’s response was a challenge: If you don’t like it, write something better. So, with Psalm 98 as his guide, Watts did just that and thus, Joy to the World was created. It’s hard to imagine he could have expected that his composition would become a beloved hymn, sung in churches throughout the world three centuries later.
While the song predates The Progress Review by more than 150 years, there is something to be said for holiday traditions and the joy of the season that radiates from the birth of the Christ child.
As you explore the pages of this special holiday edition, we hope you’ll enjoy the messages of peace and hope shared by area pastors and the thoughts of fifth grade students at La Porte City Elementary School, who write about “What Christmas Means to Me.” We very much appreciate the time members of the clergy, students and their teachers have invested in these compositions that offer a 2017 perspective on the joys of the season.
We also thank the number of area businesses who express their holiday greetings on the following pages. It is their commitment to the community that helps make this special edition possible.
Christmas Day will soon be upon us. As you celebrate the season with family and friends, please accept our best wishes for a holiday that is filled with wonders of His love.


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