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Almost All-America in Sherwood

The city was among 28 finalists in Anaheim.

Sherwood's delegation to the All-America City 2006 contest came back without one of the 10 awards doled out to towns across the country.

But they hardly returned empty handed, gaining valuable knowledge and lessons that could help the town in the future. And as a bonus, the town still earned the right to call itself a finalist for the contest, a distinction many hope it can capitalize on in the future.

About 40 people from Sherwood traveled to Anaheim, Calif., June 9 to 11 to deliver the town's presentation to judges from the National Civic League, which has given the award for the past 57 years. Sherwood was one of 30 finalists whittled down from 600 towns and cities that begin the process, and with 15,000 people, it joined several other mid-sized towns that made the final cut. Tiny Braselton, Ga., with 1,206 people, was the smallest, while Columbus, Ohio, at 730,000 the nation's 15th largest city, was the biggest.

Members of the Sherwood delegation said that despite missing out on an award, they made valuable contacts, and also gained perspective into Sherwood's own problems, and how diminutive they seem in comparison to larger city's issues.

'The communities that won had such major challenges that we're lucky we don't have: major poverty, major homelessness,' said city planner Julia Hajduk, who started the application process for Sherwood. 'While we have challenges and while we are a great community, we just don't have that huge chasm that needs to be covered.'

Sherwood Chamber of Commerce President Jim Haynes agreed.

'We're very fortunate to live in the kind of environment that we do and live in the kind of community where we can do extra things comparatively easy because we start at a very high level,' he said. 'Our goal is to maintain that.'

Haynes and Mayor Keith Mays said their conversations with other towns will help them deal with Sherwood's problems in the future. Sherwood will never grow to the robust size or face the urban problems of a place like Kansas City, Mo., but it will likely swell to the size of Park Forest, Ill., with its 24,500 residents.

'We don't have the same problems know, but we may in five years, 10 years, 50 years,' Haynes said.

Typically, about 5 percent of cities make it to the finals, which held true this year. Each city's finals presentation lasts 20 minutes, divided between a group presentation and a question-and-answer session with judges. Among Sherwood's presenters were volunteers from the Robin Hood Festival. The group brought 100 Robin Hood hats that were 'a real hit,' according to Phil McGuigan, the president of the festival. Members of several different communities were sporting the hats by the end of the weekend.

Sherwood representatives were impressed by the large group of people that made the trip. In addition to figures like the mayor and city manager, Haynes said there were members of the football team, a single mom with two adopted children, one of the youngest delegates at the event, a father-daughter team and others.

'It was outstanding for a small community to have a true cross section attend, and it was people who didn't necessarily know each other,' Mays said. 'It wasn't an existing club.'

Sherwood may also get to continue its learning experience. City Manager Ross Schultz has approached officials in Pharr, Texas, one of this year's winners, about becoming 'sister' cities.

'They're such a completely diverse oppostie of us, and there would be a big advantage for us to find out how they've confronted some of the issues heaped on them,' Shcultz said.

Each city had to pick three items that exemplified the community's ability to work together and show broad-based support to overcome a problem or follow through with an initiative. The instances must be from the past three years. Sherwood chose the creation of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, the new city hall and library building and how it served as a catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown, and the youth football pay-to-play program that raised money for any youth to be able to participate.

The 10 towns that were named All-America Cities 2006 were Lincoln, Calif.; Longmont, Colo.; Sarasota County, Fla.; Marietta, Ga.; Kansas City, Mo.; Columbus, Ohio; Maumee, Ohio; Richland County, S.C.; DeSoto, Texas; and Pharr, Texas. For more information on the awards visit http://www.ncl.org/aac/.