About FFF

Look into a crystal ball.

Take a hard look at your community.

Examine your vision. What is it you like about your community? What about it needs to change?

Now comes the hard part.

Implement those changes and make Fergus Falls a better place.

It’s a challenge, isn’t it?

But it’s a real-life challenge that a group of community leaders are hoping you grab by the horns and run with.

Fergus Falls is tapping the talents of its innovating community leaders to help create a vision for its future and travel down a path towards finding this community’s destiny.

The initial group of leaders, born out of participants of The Blandin Leadership group and the EIC Board, includes Lori Larson, Lisa Workman, Jean Bowman, Harold Stanislawski, Doug Houska, Larry Shulz, Bonnie Ewert, Bruce Fuhrman, Greg Stumbo and others, hope to receive commitments from 25 to 35 Fergus Falls “leaders” who will embark on this long, hard-fought, but rewarding journey with them.

The local group is leading the search for its destiny, but has hired on the Center for Community Stewardship and its director Dave Hengel to help lead the way.

Hengel has driven similar and successful campaigns such as Bemidji Leads! in Bemidji, Minn., Progress Park Rapids in Park Rapids, Minn., and Advantage Alexandria in Alexandria, Minn.

“We want the whole community involved. We want to create a think-tank that will unite the community under one common goal,” Said Doug Houska, president of the city’s Economic Improvement Commission and a member of the initial leadership group.

That goal: “ To create a team and a sense of common unity,” Houska said.

Hengel, of the Center for Community Stewardship, wants to see culture-changing results, he said.

Take Bemidji, for example. In 2003 the city was growing but had no direction or plan for where the city wanted to be.

Bemidji Leads! was born and led efforts to build a $70 million events center and has coordinated efforts to plant 10,000 trees per year. Today more than 300 community members are working with Bemidji Leads! to become a force for positive change in their community, Engel said.

Hengel, through his work with the Center for Community Stewardship, has found that successful communities can be built.

Houska believes that a strong community vision can be built right here in Fergus Falls with the right team of what he likes to call “Stewards.”

“What we constantly hear from communities — and we heard it from Fergus Falls, too — is that leaders can’t get on the same page or that the community can’t move forward,” Hengel said.

Hengel and his initiative sits down with a group of 25 to 35 local leaders (stewards) and facilitates the choosing of the community’s future — or destiny.

“We encourage them to debate what the community wants to be and then work on a plan for developing that future,” Hengel said.

“Communities define for themselves what their futures look like and then work together to get there,” Hengel said.

Business owners, city residents, government officials and community leaders have begun to be contacted by Forward Fergus Falls representatives already. Many will be contacted in the days ahead,” Houska said.

Towards the end of the month — on Wednesday, April 29 and Thursday, April 30 — the group will meet for the first time as a whole in two four-hour sessions at the YMCA.

What people are being asked to do is invest their valuable time and resources into a process that could take as long as nine months to shape the vision for Fergus Falls’ future. It’s a process that could take even much longer than that. But the benefits are endless.

“There’s a beginning and a middle, a middle, a middle and a middle,” Hengel said tongue-in-cheek.

“But seriously, there’s never really a time to say we’re done,” Hengel said.

Initially, Hengel sees it taking nine months to define the future.

“After the end of one year the Fergus Falls Community will have defined its future desires and will have an action plan in place to move the community forward in that direction,” Hengel said.

Houska and the Forward Fergus Falls leaders hope about 35 people will want to be a part of the city’s future.

“If you’re contacted and interested in being a part of it and being on board we hope you’ll accept a call to action,” Houska said.

“We gathering a group of people who will go out to town meetings and listen to people. We want this to be a very public process.” Houska said.

“There will be a renewed civil engagement among community members and you’ll see that people will be getting off the sidelines a bit,” he said.

Building a community — that’s a lifetime gig!,” Hengel said.

If you are interested in getting involved in this initiative call Nancy Anderson at the FFEIC at 218-332-5458 or email her at

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