Centering on Chewelah: Residents give feedback for WA Chamber of Commerce program

(JARED ARNOLD/Chewelah Independent)

A younger community member writes his thoughts on the community of Chewelah during the “Chewelah’s Got Vision” meeting which asked for community input for the WA Department of Commerce to identify the greatest needs for the community. (Jared Arnold photo)

CHEWELAH’S GOT VISION: Department of Commerce will help Chewelah identify two priority projects…

Over 100 residents showed up with their big ideas to a Nov. 12 event at Chewelah’s Civic Center, and many of those ideas were transferred in bright colors and fun designs onto a oversized poster by an artist brought in by the Washington Department of Commerce (DOC).

The event, an open house-style meeting called “Chewelah’s Got Vision,” was hosted by Commerce and the City of Chewelah to gather ideas that the residents would like to see happen here. Many local leaders from the city, chamber of commerce, Tri County Economic Development District, the library and schools manned several “stations” where attendees could share their thoughts. The station leaders collected information about how long each of the attendees had lived in Chewelah, what they liked about the community, their ideas on new projects that would benefit the town and finished with a written survey.

The visioning meeting was part of the DOC’s pilot project called New Approaches, a program that will help the community identify two priority projects and provide technical assistance to guide those projects through planning, funding and, hopefully, completion.

Mayor Dorothy Knauss was excited about the evening and the number of people who participated.

“The visioning session Tuesday evening was, by all counts, a huge success. I was impressed that there were so many things people like about Chewelah.

The ages of those attending was also telling – from over 70 years living here to less than five. The City will debrief with [Commerce] on Tuesday and plan the way forward to the next meeting, Thanks to all those who want to be part of this exciting project!” Knauss said after the open house.

Julia Havens, Community Outreach Program Specialist for the Department of Commerce, said that another meeting will be held in January where the community will help distill their many ideas down to two priority projects.

“Above all, this project is community-driven. The idea is to partner with Chewelah’s leaders and residents to learn about local needs and have the community select two priorities where [Commerce] can provide intensive technical assistance to your local staff as they work toward achieving those priorities. We anticipate the next community event will be in January 2020 where we will explore the opportunities in more detail and listen to the community tell us what their top priorities are,” Havens explained in an interview after the meeting.

Havens talked about the process so far and some of the broad areas of concern that came out of the meeting.

“There is an excellent team working really hard to make sure this is a strong collaborative partnership between the state and the Chewelah community. What makes Chewelah such a great place is the amazing planning support and volunteerism that runs through this community. This team was formed from a preliminary meeting with key local leaders to discuss the pilot project and identify community needs that are currently known. We have contracted with visual artist, Lori Rock, to capture the attendee’s comments and ideas in a unique way. This kind of art is helpful to convey numerous and diverse ideas and how needs are interconnected. Some common themes that the team heard include maximizing outdoor recreation and gathering opportunities; the need for housing, senior and wellness facilities, and child care; improvements to aging infrastructure; and ways to advance Chewelah to be a thriving and creative town. I think the people involved with this effort feel a strong sense of ownership in supporting Chewelah and the community’s goals for the future,” Havens said.

Havens commended attendees for their participation and support of the community.

“People who work, live and play in Chewelah love this town and care deeply about how to help ensure it stays a vibrant place for years to come. This is an exciting time to partner with Chewelah’s administration and support community-driven priorities,” she said. “Commerce’s mission is strengthening communities, and it takes strong, effective relationships with numerous committed public and private partners to succeed in making a difference for the people of Washington State. We would like to thank the planning committee, local leaders, and all the residents of Chewelah who attended the event. We hope this partnership will provide an opportunity for everyone to participate and have their voice heard. We look forward to seeing you again in January.”

For more information about Commerce and the New Approaches pilot program, visit