Help new residents feel welcome

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2006

Last week I was outside working and met a lady pushing a baby in a stroller.

She was walking around town, getting a feel for the place, having recently moved into one of the homes in Old Town.

She told me she had just moved the week before from Korea. Her husband had a job locally.

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Meeting her got me thinking about what is available in the community for her. She spoke a little English, but I thought about how difficult it would be to move around the world, to a different place with a different language and different culture.

Our mayor made a statement at a recent city council meeting that he believed Selma had the resources to meet any need in the community.

I think he’s probably right about that. But how do we communicate the availability of those resources to newcomers? Particularly if there is a language barrier.

It’s true that there’s an exodus of people who move from Selma to bigger areas to find more job opportunities.

But, it’s also true that there’s an influx of new residents who come to Selma for various reasons – at various stages of their lives – to become a part of our community.

How open are we to these newcomers?

Our newsroom at The Selma Times-Journal has a constant flow of young people who move to this city to make it their home – at least for a little while. They are not unlike any other young adults. They are looking for things to do, people to meet, activities and groups to get involved in.

Our city council and city leaders can argue for four hours over matters of little consequence to most of Selma’s residents.

But what is the city doing to make these new residents feel a part?

No one wants to uproot, move to a new place, buy or rent a home, move their family, have their kids change schools, only to

find out that the city they’ve moved to has leadership that can’t put their differences aside and do things for the betterment of the community.

There’s opportunity in Selma. And there’s plenty of nice, kind and caring people. There’s even a Welcome Wagon that has made our new staff members feel welcome.

Yes, it’s true that any change is difficult, but talk to new residents and you’ll find out many of them have a tougher time here than in other places.

Why is that?

Becoming a part of a community takes time and effort on the part of new residents. But the community has to be open and accepting of the new residents as well.

There are folks here who have no doubt become very


in making Selma their home and don’t necessarily welcome change. That’s fine, but bear in mind that the exodus will continue.

So, to attract and keep new residents, Selma leadership (political and business) has to cooperate in a way that moves this area forward.

Some folks criticize the city’s plan to spend $60,000 (initially) on a skateboard park. But, at least it’s progressive. At least it’s something for young people to do. And it shows that our officials can work together. Selma leaders must think outside the box to bring progress and innovation to our city.

Like I said before, this town is full of kind, friendly people. Why not incorporate that into city government as well?

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Times-Journal.