Meeting Community in Marshall

Community members started filling the Marshall-Lyon County Library meeting room about 10 minutes before 6 pm. There were a few side conversations and waves hello between familiar faces while everyone grabbed a copy of the Blueprint Springboard and an agenda for the conversation. Ron Skjong from the Marshall office of the Karen Organization of Minnesota prompted the gathering with the message of a “goal towards the common good”. Once the group seemed to be settled in their seats we began introductions.

A broad range of 30 to 40 individuals introduced themselves, some coming in their roles with regional development, education, public and social services, or as interested residents. The room was full of diverse perspectives and experiences, representing Marshall and the surrounding area. Members shared why they decided to show up, including sentiments such as, “I want to have a voice in the community” or that they were “excited by the premise of discussion that gets outside the bubble”. After introductions, the meeting dove straight into small group discussion. Participants numbered off 1-5 and found their group to discuss the following questions:

  1. What are the strengths or inspiration they found in the Blueprint related to their community?
  2. What are the opportunities for growth in their community?
  3. What is missing from their community and/or the Blueprint Springboard?

Community members took time get into the weeds, discussing everything from public safety, diverse employee accommodations, the Sunrise Court housing crisis, daycare, transit, healthcare, and other matters. The conversations were balanced and honest. People shared their experience and their perception of issues in the community.  After discussing for over an hour, everyone came back together to share their thoughts and ideas about where the highest priorities were in their community.

There was agreement among members in the room that all of the issues and opportunities facing the Marshall community intersect with one another, and that nothing happens in a bubble. A theme emerged that Marshall has a great foundation to build from with its diversity, services, and sense of community, but there are opportunities to better address basic needs and components of a diversifying community. Moving forward, attendees ended the meeting with a call for continued organizing and more voices at the table.

“When a community here thrives it benefits others. It doesn’t just affect Marshall if Marshall succeeds.”


Community & Culture

“We are all connected and have a positive proud attitude being from Marshall”

  • Diversity and that it is increasing
  • Feels like a “big little town”
  • Increasing number of community events, involvement, and conversations
  • This is happening and there are people that are working on this and getting the info out there
  • People come here with ambition
  • Marshall has agency – that’s why it can be more positive
  • A great amount of art and art supporters
  • Farmer’s market in-town


  • school/community infrastructure
  • Value and focus on education
  • Stellar school systems


  • Tax rates and housing plans
  • Cost of living relative to the metro

Organizational resources

  • Amount of services that already exist- ABE, workforce, etc.
  • The connections between resources are there and the ability to connect them to people

Public Safety

  • The race for sheriff – excellent outcome shows a trust in law enforcement- law enforcement engaged in community health (group acknowledged that they were all white and have a privileged perspective)


  • Transit system is strong and innovative for rural areas (routes in Marshall & Redwood) and working on a route to Balaton
  • Marshall goes above and beyond and does the best they can with a county seat
    • County and local funding support transit route development to Balaton (Lyon County match & DOT funds)


  • Large employers and many jobs that are trying to hire



“How do you make policy that is affordable and worthwhile for daycare providers?”

  • Daycare needs to be its own policy category on the Blueprint
  • Teachers are taking a year off for newborn children due to lack of childcare options
  • Daycare is an avenue towards entrepreneurship

Community & Culture

“We have a lot of programs, but not the right staff or enough staff for getting the word out. They are directly linked and not in a bubble.”

  • Murals in the city are nice to see
  • Public spaces and places to gather (have a dish together)
  • Food access: Utilize local markets to sell farmers’ produce within the community

IDEA: Cover electrical boxes with art: Click here for research that links benefits between public art and public health.

Democracy/Civic Engagement

  • Area small town “city council”
    • Change the narrative to how the city can help the community outside of just “day to day” matters
    • Take more initiative leading how the community can help business be an asset.
  • Positions on the ballot that aren’t being filled – empty candidate fields
  • Creating a politically engaged community
  • Candidate recruitment and making sure candidates are qualified
  • Bringing young people into community programs (lions, rotary, etc.)
  • Looping in sports families and parents with school-age kids into the conversations
  • Dual-income households have more activities, therefore making additional time commitments is a challenge
  • The gender and racial gap in political representation


“How do you teach a whole new community and prepare students?”

  • Preparing new immigrant families for school systems: A lot of students are new to this country.
    • Parents don’t have a transition for these students
    • Schools don’t have the staff or space
    • IDEA: Transition school that incorporates parents to be a part of learning and help families in all aspects of the student’s life – community raised
  • Rethink the idea that all students should be college-bound: incorporate trade skills learning back into high school.


“What can the city do to help businesses?”

  • Need for job opportunities for those with criminal records and disabilities
  • The workforce is tight and needs to find a way to utilize all people
    • Train and adapt jobs to a new skill set
    • Employers won’t hire due to lack of experience
    • Prayer times are an issue between employees and employers
  • More support for small businesses- so many that come and leave quickly
  • Economic Development Association (EDA) does a lot to make business come to town, but what can they do to sustain and educate people?
    • Supporting, educating new business startups

Health Care

“I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t deserve healthcare.”

  • Related to women’s issues, farm issues, disability rights
  • Catastrophic coverage
  • Uncontrolled costs- even high for retirees
  • High deductibles and high premiums
  • “Gray Tsunami” also known as “Silver Tsunami”- ⅓ of the workforce is set to retire in the next 5 years
  • Societal hopelessness about the enormity of the baby boomer aging problems
  • Addressing caring for aging parents
  • Home health care, PCAs, and direct support staff are needed– need better wages and protections for direct care staff
  • Hospices are overcrowded
  • Need better and more diverse levels of care – more than only assisted living and nursing homes, need something in between.
  • Access to healthcare based on income for everyone
  • Provide families with immunizations and healthcare education: students, by law, aren’t allowed in school without it. So many families are without insurance and shots are expensive ($100 per shot).
  • Opioid addiction problem

IDEA: Create a program for police and others to carry Narcan and develop training and education for those carrying

High-speed Rural Broadband and reliable phone service

“Is city wi-fi attainable in rural Minnesota?”

  • Broadband ends at city limits- wireless needed
  • School days and weather issues- during snow days, students could have online access (Ex. in Minneapolis, students can still participate online during a snow day)
  • Almost all jobs require an online application
  • MNsure is online
  • Library computers are always busy
  • How much would it cost for free internet in public areas?
  • The Internet isn’t affordable for families: Close to 48% of students on pre-reduced lunches
  • Need public funding and investment


“41 students are losing housing with the Sunrise Court situation.”

  • Marshall is low on affordable housing stock
  • Need more funding for low-middle income families who want to buy a house
  • Is cooperative housing a solution?
  • Marshall doesn’t have a city rental ordinance
  • Families are moving away from Marshall back to other places due to a lack of housing
  • A critical need for housing and daycare


“Lack of documentation is a public safety issue too.”

  • No immigration office and need more immigration legal aid resources
  • Immigrants don’t have access to insurance or necessities (driver’s license/internet) because they don’t have documentation.
  • Immigrants need an advocate: Language barriers lead to a lack of understanding of services/institutions and sometimes fear
  • Emigrating families – need housing and employment – adult education – childcare

IDEA: Use spaces in the community to make childcare available at adult basic education (A.B.E) classes


  • Trailer park- school buses and ambulances can’t go in due to road conditions
  •  Transportation
    • Lack of opportunities in small towns and distance to work disadvantage in the area: have to drive 20-50 miles for jobs and road conditions aren’t always the best
    • Example of County providing local match funding, which MnDOT matches as a model for others to use

IDEA: Businesses funding employee transportation as a way to reduce barriers to employment

Poverty/Income Mobility

“Who’s getting paid at the top? There used to be fewer disparities in wages.”

  • Protect SNAP
    • Military families, low-income families, and people with disabilities depend on SNAP

IDEA: Providing financial notice for preventative measures before the power is off and before it is too late to take action

Public Safety/Criminal Justice

  • For-profit prisons
    • Perspective 1: Lives near Appleton and feels that if employees are happy and people are treated well, “what’s the problem?”
    • Perspective 2: For-profit prisons can lobby and influence political power as a corporation, “It is scary to give power to business that can incarcerate people.”
  • Discussion about the prevalence of sex trafficking in the Marshall community


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