Stutzman: Turning ‘I wish’ into ‘let’s do it’

Early Alpena has an incredibly story. We wouldn’t be able to call this beautiful area home without the pioneering efforts of a few visionary men and women who trudged through thick forests, swamps, and sailed choppy freshwater seas to claim Northeast Michigan as their paradise.

I was recently sharing some stories of Alpena’s early settlers when I realized something special. Our community was founded on giving to the greater good of the community. Originally named Fremont, after a gubernatorial candidate, our community was founded by four men with last names of Fletcher, Oldfield, Minor, and Lockwood. They came to Northeast Michigan for the wealth of timber lands and spent the better part of a decade running logging camps and sawmill operations across the region.

At one time it was estimated there were more millionaires in Alpena County than anywhere else. We owe so much to these early trailblazers. They gave much of themselves and their prosperity back to the community to build it into a comfortable, livable landscape. Perhaps the most important thing we can thank them for is their willingness to think outside of the box and never say, “I wish somebody would “

They didn’t say, “I wish somebody would clear some trees and make a road here.”

They didn’t say, “I wish somebody would open a store so I could buy some twine and shoelaces.”

They didn’t say, “I wish somebody would play some music so I could relax.”

They didn’t say, “I wish,” they said, “let’s do it.”

The members of the Carter family were the first permanent settlers of Alpena and included Daniel, Sarah and Mary. Mr. Carter came to Alpena to look after Mr. Fletcher’s interests and also became the first Postmaster and served as Justice of the Peace. Mrs. Carter was considered the first physician. Not because she went to school to be a physician, but because she had nursing training, was good with remedies, and most importantly – the community needed a health care provider and she stepped up to the plate to help. Their daughter served as the first school teacher.

Throughout Alpena’s history there is a wealth of anecdotes portraying the willingness of community members to pitch in wherever needed for the greater good of the community. It is for this reason that Alpena has grown into the community we love today. They didn’t say, “I wish,” they looked around and said, “what do we need and how can we make it happen.”

This is a great lesson as we in Northeast Michigan stand on the edge of a major tipping point that can catapult us into the future and help us regain the opportunity for prosperity for all in the region. I hear so many ideas and dreams people have for the community that come from a framework of, “I wish somebody would ” or “Why don’t you “

After refreshing my knowledge of Alpena’s history I am fired up to turn that question back around and ask, “Why not you?” I agree that Northeast Michigan needs many things to reach its full potential.

In order for us to even get close to the vision of what we could be and take advantage of what we have to offer, we need each and every one of us to step up. It isn’t someone else’s job, it is everyone’s job. If you want Alpena to grow, what can you do to help? If you want Northeast Michigan to have more retail variety or job options, what can you do to help? If you have ideas to make our community better what can you do to bring them to life? We need to pledge to ourselves that we will no longer say, “I wish somebody would ” and start asking “What can I do?”

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.