Forest Grove really does have a 'small-town feeling' and attending the annual meeting reminds me of that.

A few years ago, I accomplished something that has saved me time and time again. I learned to say 'no.' 'No' to all the things that I didn't want to do.

Before I turned 40, I would find myself agreeing to every request. I was on every committee at the school where I taught. I would accept every invitation that was sent my way, even if I didn't want to attend the function. I sat on my homeowner's board although I loathed the meetings. I'd send Christmas cards out each year even though I didn't want to do so.

And somewhere along the way, I snapped. I decided that I was done. And I went from doing everything to doing almost nothing. No Christmas cards, no functions, no committees, and not even one school volunteer opportunity. It was… fantastic.

Part of that decision was necessitated by the fact that I had a newly born, very autistic son who needed my full attention. The other part was that I was tired of finding myself doing all these things I did not enjoy.

But after several years of saying no, I was ready to do something again in my community. Coincidently (or, maybe not), it was then that I was appointed to the Forest Grove Committee for Citizen Involvement.

Our task on this volunteer committee is to plan the annual town meeting. Several months ago, I pointed out that even I had a hard time carving out the time once a month to plan the event.

But I did, and I'm glad, because this is an important community gathering. I'm not sure I have sat through an entire city council meeting in the 10 years I have lived here, but I have attended two town meetings.

One of the reasons we moved to Forest Grove was because it seemed like one of the few places around that really did have a 'small town feeling.' And attending the town meeting each year reminded me of that.

It gave me a chance to connect with neighbors I did not usually have time to see; I was able to give my opinions about town matters directly to the council and the mayor and it helped me understand the challenges we were facing as a town and what I might be able to do to help.

I'm sure there were other things going on those two Saturdays. I could easily have said 'no.' But I'm glad I said 'yes.'

So it is with all this in mind that I am asking my fellow neighbors, friends, and community members to consider giving one Saturday morning to attend this year's town meeting on Jan. 28.

We have planned it with you in mind. It should be something worth your time. In addition to a wonderful breakfast from our own Maggie's Buns, we will provide something that can strengthen our community.

This year, we are going to talk about how your tax money is spent in the city. You will see dollar by dollar where your money goes. You will understand why your utility rates are changing.

And more importantly, you will be asked to give immediate feedback about how you want that money prioritized. The city has obtained a system that will allow attendees to buzz in to instantly answer questions about what you like and don't like about what you hear.

There will be a time to talk one on one with your neighbors, city administrators, councilors and the mayor. There is time built in to ask and have questions answered. Presentations from the safety committee, police and fire departments, and budget committees will be as brief as possible and to the point. And we will discuss hot topics like the David Hill lawsuit settlement and the upcoming levy. We have it all: mystery, intrigue, drama, good snacks and door prizes.

This month, you will see me at BJ's Coffee, the library and around town waving yellow signs imploring you to come to the meeting. You may receive bright green invitations that give you a chance to win door prizes. We will on the corner by Ace Hardware the Friday before to remind you to come.

If you have never attended a town meeting, this might be the one worth coming to. I think you can trust me enough by now to believe that we planned this one with you in mind. Because I think that a lot of you are just like me: you care about this town, you want to help when you can, but if you are going to say 'yes' to something … then it better well be worth it.

This year, it will be. See you on the 28th!

Show me my money!

What: Forest Grove Annual Town Meeting

When: 9 a.m. - noon, Saturday, Jan. 28

Where: Community Auditorium, 1915 Main St.

Host: Committee for Citizen Involvement

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