To the editor:
Several years ago we lived in an area very similar to Jefferson County. The work force found financially satisfying work. The county had been incorporated for nearly 160 years and enjoyed a robust history. At one time most of the utilities were locally owned.
During the years, from about 1950 until 1975, changes came with rapid succession. This deterioration continued until about 1982 when there was a general collapse. Plants began either to move out of the area, or become so technologically advanced that employment plunged.
A carbon plant, which once provided financial security to several thousand employees, needed only 200 security workers. The factory ceased manufacturing products, and production moved to several locations including South Korea and Mexico. A local paper mill that employed some 4,000 was modernized, and the new high-tech equipment reduced the work force dramatically.
It was reported that in 10 years the area had nearly lost 8,000 white collar workers, and more than four times that number of blue collar jobs moved away or simply vanished. This outsourcing cost the county many shops and markets, the 200-bed hospital was converted into a nursing facility and the majority of physicians and nursing staff were displaced.
The city fathers decided someone had better do something, and since they were the only someone available, they had better look into the matter.
Their first plan of attack was to retrain the work force to go from labor intensive to high-tech positions. The school system asked what would be needed in the next 20 years and began preparing students to qualify for those jobs; jobs which took more brawn than brain were gone.
"Yes," the folks decided that if they wanted their children and grandchildren to live among them, they had to provide for the education which would guarantee they could qualify for the job opportunities offered.
Now as I reviewed the history of that city and the area, which I now call my hometown, there are similarities: Once there was a bounty of work opportunities, all a person had to do was to reach age 18 and apply to any of the agents in charge of employment and a job was had. Employment nearly always included a good living wage and health care benefits and generally a pension plan. The students who went on to college, quite often, came back home to work in a management position or to fill a professional office.
Should we really desire our children and grandchildren to live in this area, the time is now for us to decide that we are willing to vote "yes" on the levies that will guarantee the educational and other systems are healthy and will prepare our youth to meet these new challenges.
Should you examine our history you will discover that our grandparents said: "Yes, we want our children to have a good life right here where I grew up and found my happiness and my life satisfying."
C. Robert Meyer