A CitySmiths Update

Hello Dear, if not Faithful, Readers, 

Clearly we’ve given you no reason in the last nine months for you to be interested in our lives or the activities that have kept us busy.  We’ve been exceptionally occupied with so many adventures since last August, and wanted to catch you up on some of them: 

After ten years of ministry, I (Michael) left my position as Youth Director at Kishwaukee Church to pursue a graduate degree in Public Administration from Northern Illinois University.  It was a bittersweet transition; the position allowed me to disciple hundreds of students, lead alongside a top-notch team of adult and student volunteers, teach multiple times during the week, and serve in cities throughout the country.  I continue to miss my students, leaders, and the Kish family, but am grateful to live not far from many of them and continue to see students often. 

These students are my favorite people.   Now you’ve graduated; where does the time go?

These students are my favorite people.   Now you’ve graduated; where does the time go?

Since then, I’ve been working as a Management Intern in the City of Janesville, while taking three classes per semester.  The coursework has been rigorous yet timely, and the internship allows me to apply what I’m learning each day.   The internship has given me a fresh appreciation for local government leadership and the public servants who continue to improve service delivery in a variety of ways.   

I took this shot after my interview with the City of Janesville, May of last year.  Charming, resilient…but, alas, the ‘shiny and new’ near interstate 90 commands the wallets of most.

I took this shot after my interview with the City of Janesville, May of last year.  Charming, resilient…but, alas, the ‘shiny and new’ near interstate 90 commands the wallets of most.

Jennifer continues to serve as the Program and Membership Coordinator at the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE).  From Leadership Cafés to Business Luncheons, Jennifer handles the logistics for every NICNE program: Registration, marketing, set-up/tear-down, and much more.  Nonprofit organizations that are members with NICNE have access to Jennifer’s expertise as well.  Board training, strategic planning, grant applications, and technical assistance are among the many inquiries that Jennifer receives from nonprofits in her position. 

Last Fall, Jennifer completed a volunteer position for Transform Rockford, an initiative which aims to make the Rockford region a Top 25 city by 2025.  Jen’s role was an ‘ arts and recreation spoke lead’.  The work was extensive and varied, and involved leading a team of volunteers in discovering best practices in cultural and recreational planning throughout the country.  Jennifer also serves as a board member on our local neighborhood association, where she manages the social media pages, assists with neighborhood programs, and much more.  

So, although we don't expect our schedules to diminish anytime soon, we’re working to get back to our original intent for this blog: “Every day presents an opportunity learn more about what creating a better city means, and this site is our effort to work through some of those lessons…” Not a week goes by where we discover a great idea, or are discouraged by a certain outcome, where we say,  “we need to write about this.”  So expect more regular, ongoing content from us in the months to come.  For now, here are some photos to serve as updates of what’s been keeping us busy the last several months.

In May we spent two weeks in Copenhagen.  One of the most formative experiences of our lives.  Put simply: Once you see the bicycle as the normative, dominant means of transportation, you see cities in a different light.  We’re smitten, and we can’t wait to go back.  Check out Copenhagenize; Mikael Colville-Andersen is my hero.

In May we spent two weeks in Copenhagen.  One of the most formative experiences of our lives.  Put simply: Once you see the bicycle as the normative, dominant means of transportation, you see cities in a different light.  We’re smitten, and we can’t wait to go back.  Check out Copenhagenize; Mikael Colville-Andersen is my hero.

In July Jennifer organized a ‘Rally at The Roaster’, an event at our local coffee roaster to promote a bicycle path on a heavily-used thoroughfare in Rockford.   It was the first smattering of bicycles we saw since Copenhagen, and it was amazing to have news networks arrive and get the word out. 

In July Jennifer organized a ‘Rally at The Roaster’, an event at our local coffee roaster to promote a bicycle path on a heavily-used thoroughfare in Rockford.   It was the first smattering of bicycles we saw since Copenhagen, and it was amazing to have news networks arrive and get the word out. 

In August, Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns visited Rockford to give a Curbside Chat and participate in a series of neighborhood walking tours.  The Strong Towns message continues to inspire and challenge us, and we’re grateful that Rachel Quednau, Communications Director for Strong Towns, was able to swing by as well.

In August, Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns visited Rockford to give a Curbside Chat and participate in a series of neighborhood walking tours.  The Strong Towns message continues to inspire and challenge us, and we’re grateful that Rachel Quednau, Communications Director for Strong Towns, was able to swing by as well.

In October, Michael attended the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque Iowa.  We’re inspired by Dubuque’s passionate, dedicated, and progressive leadership, and it shines through in conferences like this.  2 days, 80 bucks, and a tour of the City?  Yes and yes.

In October, Michael attended the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque Iowa.  We’re inspired by Dubuque’s passionate, dedicated, and progressive leadership, and it shines through in conferences like this.  2 days, 80 bucks, and a tour of the City?  Yes and yes.

Did we say that Copenhagen was influential?  We rode more in the past year than we have in the past twenty.  We rode through the winter as well, and I’ll tell you: I’d rather be riding at 10 degrees than 100 degrees.  Winter riding is so much fun.  

Did we say that Copenhagen was influential?  We rode more in the past year than we have in the past twenty.  We rode through the winter as well, and I’ll tell you: I’d rather be riding at 10 degrees than 100 degrees.  Winter riding is so much fun.  

In January, the Rockford Register Star selected us as part of the paper’s “People to Watch in 2017”! To whomever nominated us: Thank you.   

In January, the Rockford Register Star selected us as part of the paper’s “People to Watch in 2017”! To whomever nominated us: Thank you.   

This Spring, Jennifer was a Ward Co-Lead for the Tom McNamara mayoral campaign.  Jennifer walked dozens of blocks and knocked on doors to get the vote out.  Campaigning is exhaustive, intensive work…but the work paid off.  Tom received 70% of the vote with four candidates running; pretty impressive.

This Spring, Jennifer was a Ward Co-Lead for the Tom McNamara mayoral campaign.  Jennifer walked dozens of blocks and knocked on doors to get the vote out.  Campaigning is exhaustive, intensive work…but the work paid off.  Tom received 70% of the vote with four candidates running; pretty impressive.

Finally: We are a part of I Bike Rockford, a group of riders who work to ensure that more people of all ages, abilities, and biking styles can say “I Bike Rockford” for fun, recreation, and transportation. Over the last six months our group has increased sizably, and is working on programming, safety, and policy initiatives.   If you’re in the Rockford area, check out I Bike Rockford, and join us at City Market this summer for a post-market ride! 

Finally: We are a part of I Bike Rockford, a group of riders who work to ensure that more people of all ages, abilities, and biking styles can say “I Bike Rockford” for fun, recreation, and transportation. Over the last six months our group has increased sizably, and is working on programming, safety, and policy initiatives.   If you’re in the Rockford area, check out I Bike Rockford, and join us at City Market this summer for a post-market ride!