The Parthenon

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EDITORIAL: A year later, Rader reminds us of why Huntington is America’s Best Community


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A year ago on April 19, Huntington citizens waited with anticipation for the announcement of winning community in Frontier Communication’s nationwide “America’s Best Community” competition. Later that evening, Huntington was awarded the title, and with it, $3 million.

“We were aggressive in our aspirations,” city communications director Bryan Chambers told reporters after the announcement. “Our community believed in that, and we are committed to the transformation of this community, and we feel that the plans we are putting in place will do that for the next 50 years.”

The past year has certainly been dynamic for the city of Huntington, with the “Open to All” campaign, the continued development of downtown Huntington and the surrounding area, one of the largest drug takedowns in state history and a Netflix documentary that brought our community’s struggles to the red carpet.

And exactly a year after the announcement, TIME Magazine listed their picks for the 100 most influential people in the world, with Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader making the cut.

“As the first woman to lead a professional fire department in West Virginia,” Sen. Joe Manchin wrote in his nomination for Rader, “she broke down barriers for young women across our state and continues to serve as the type of leader West Virginia and America need right now.”

It was this year that gave Huntington citizens the sense that our story matters to the world, and it is this recognition that validates this feeling. Huntington leadership and its citizens’ innovation are inspiring the nation.

Rader was recognized by TIME as a pioneer, referring to her as “a warrior in the fight against opioids.”

For a problem plaguing not only our city but the entire nation, it is clear that Huntington has flipped the narrative. This is a problem that will not win because of a community’s brave efforts. The world is watching.

“If every city had a chief like Jan Rader,” Manchin wrote, “our country would be a better place.”

Rader embodies the spirit of America’s best community: resiliency, compassion, innovation and the fighting grit that never gives up.

“I’m keeping this in perspective,” Rader said in a statement issued by Fairness West Virginia. “I might be out front because of the documentary and for being a spokesperson on these issues, but I am just one of many, many people doing this work under the leadership of Mayor Williams.”

Rader recognizes that it takes a village, and in this case, America’s best community, to develop the city. Huntington, placed in the narrative of despair and desolation, is actively working to change that narrative into one of redemption and revitalization.  And that is why we are America’s best community.

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