Mayor Ben Schierer drew smiles and laughter, giving students a sense of confidence as he brought a greeting from City Hall to Hillcrest students Monday. In his personable presentation he had the Norwegian students leaning forward, students from Africa thinking to their Christmas traditions, and a host of local students brimming with pride.
The Mayor of Fergus Falls started by recounting an email he recently sent to some former Hillcrest students from Norway. The Norwegian pair had visited a pizza parlor in Norway and tried the Thai Pizza, writing to the Mayor after they finished the pie that they were sadly disappointed. They wrote to ask the Mayor for his recipe so the two could enjoy a taste of Fergus Falls in their native Norway. The Norwegian students hearing the story from Mayor Schierer leaned in.
The Mayor then spoke to a host of unique points of Fergus Falls. The Community is the longest standing tree city, a movement Schierer detailed in a quick history of Fergus Falls where he noted community leaders planting trees following a horrific cyclone that struck Fergus Falls in 1919. He went to on reveal how Fergus Falls is being recognized for being biker and pedestrian friendly. Enhanced bike lanes, pedestrian protections, and a mountain bike course were a few initiatives he noted the community has embraced the past few years. But his comment about the city Christmas tree is what drew a smile from some international students.
The Mayor spoke to a passion he has to see the city bring back a Christmas tree. He outlined how some might think calling the tree a Christmas tree would be divisive. "This is not a divisive issue," the Mayor noted, explaining that a Christmas tree holds special meaning for many in the city, including himself. He went on to point out that others are free to bring their traditions into the public arena if they choose. For many international students, this is the America they have heard much about, and whispers sparked from within the crowd as the Mayor invited the student body to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony the first week in December, encouraging students to think how they might contribute to decorating the tree with an ethnic flare from their home countries. Some students from Africa smiled.
The Mayor spoke confidently about the importance of contributing to the community, not being afraid to express traditions and values that might come from personal opinion or religious preference. He referenced the banner that hung on the wall behind him throughout his presentation. Before the chapel service a group of staff members communicated the school theme for the year. The Chapel banner speaks to this theme, with the words creation, fall, redemption, restoration bookending the Square One logo that is uniting Hillcrest around God's big story.
Mayor Schierer spoke of seeing beauty in creation as he referenced the Bible passage on the banner. He noted specifically that the Fergus Falls community has a lot of beauty throughout the community. He spoke to his pride in caring for the buildings of the community, showing a humble pride in the ongoing ministry of Hillcrest that is using an iconic landmark building sitting along the Ottertail river nestled in Fergus Falls. The local students couldn't hold back smiles as he spoke, cheering for the Mayor as he thanked the Hillcrest community for their involvement in Fergus Falls, going on to invite comments and questions to his office from all students. Mayor Schierer commented on the energy that he felt in the chapel Monday morning, something the Hillcrest staff commented that they hope encourages Mayor Schierer as he continues serving the community.