Greensburg mayor hopes for reborn town
While the shattered remains of his town lay at his feet, the future of Greensburg is what Mayor Lonnie McCollum has his eyes set on.
An optimistic man, he sees the years ahead as a chance for an aging town to be reborn.
“We have the opportunity for a brand new town. Why not take it? Why not?” said McCollum, who lost his home and several vehicles during the tornado.
He said the town will build a new school, a new hospital and a new city hall. And the situation gives Greensburg leaders the chance
to address aging infrastructure.
A park planned to replace an old building on the southwest corner of Main Street and U.S. 54 is still a go, according to McCollum.
“It will be a lot cheaper now that nature’s done the demolition,” McCollum said during a Tuesday tour of the town.
An old-values town still keen to the old way of thinking, McCollum said he wants to marry that character with modern conveniences.
He knows that the new and improved Greensburg isn’t going to happen overnight.
“But in five years, there will a huge improvement,” McCollum said.
“We will get you a lifestyle back, some way, somehow,” he said. “It’ll be hard, and it will be uncomfortable, but we’ll do it.”
Despite the fact that he knows some people doubt the city’s ability to
overcome Friday night’s tornado, McCollum said he wants to see signs in store windows alerting the community of plans to rebuild. Business leaders are already forming a task force to plan for the future.
“Stores and retail drive homes,” he said.
The mayor’s positive outlook is important in the days, weeks and months ahead, according to City Administrator Steve Hewitt.
“It’s easy to focus on the negative here,” he said. “You must come to terms with the devastation. ... But once we’ve recovered, once we’ve moved past that and we rebuild, that’s where I’m certain we will set our city apart from others.”
People have told Hewitt that residents will leave. But once the town has recovered, he expects to see two people come to Greensburg for every one resident who left.
“And knowing our past, I have no doubts we will be successful.”