Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson was invited to speak at the National Academy of Science at the end of January, representing the hometown values and economic sustainability of a town rebuilt after a devastating tornado in 2007.
Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson never dreamed he would travel around the country speaking to other city leaders and environmental groups about his small town home in western Kansas. But that's just what he has been doing, and January 29-31 he was invited to Washington D.C. by the National Academy of Science to speak as part of a round-table discussion group.
"People don't fear change," he told participants. "They fear loss, loss of jobs, loss of identity, lost of prestige."
It's been more than 10 years since a tornado leveled Greensburg in May 2007, but people around the world continue to take note of the town's recovery process. They hope to learn from it and emulate the sustainability and viability for the future. In a workshop on deploying sustainable energy during transition: implications of recovery, renewal and rebuilding, Dixson spoke about finding the core values of a community and incorporating those in the process of recovering from a disaster.
"Anytime there is change, we have to listen to the voices and build on the past, not dwell on it, not focus on it, but move forward and learn from it," Dixson said. "Our goal is always to focus on sustainability and make our community a better place to live and work for all citizens."
Dixson said a big part of Greensburg's success in recovering from devastation 10-years-ago was that recovery was built on the core values of the community.
"We always had been told, that if you take care of the land, it will take care of you," he said. "And you better always try to leave it better than you found it. I grew up on those mottos."
Dixson said what was accomplished at Greensburg was that the community was rebuilt with environmental sustainability in mind.
"Because of that, we've become a destination place," he said. "We are what community is all about and people come from near and far to see it. Renewal has happened here as we worked together to enhance technology and become financially stable for future generations."
Dixson said a bonus of his invitation to share Greensburg's success with others, like at the D.C. conference, was that it often brought visitors to the town who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn about sustainability.
"We need to make sure we are always promoting not only our community, but the surrounding areas as well," he said. "We transpire politics and people come here because they are amazed at what we've done."
Dixson said he did not have additional speaking engagements planned in the near future, but he wanted to make sure others knew the success of Greensburg had nothing to do with him personally.
"A lot of people have had their hands in this far-reaching process of rebuilding," he said. "We have been so blessed to be helped by so many other towns in Kansas, and around the world, really. We've kept our identity and built for the future on that."