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DeWayne's World - How does Woodford County fit in?

DeWayne Bartels

When it comes to knowing Woodford County I barely have my big toe wet.

I have spent my career as a reporter covering Peoria, Tazewell and Henry counties.

Woodford County has always been a mystery to me.

For many years I have, like many others, referred to this as the Tri-County Area.

Peoria and Tazewell counties have always been easy to peg. They are residential and commercial centers. But, a question that nags is “How does Woodford County fit in?”

Woodford County seems like an island unto itself in the Tri-County Area, during these early days of my initiation and Woodford County residents seem just fine with that.

It seems to be an area that has been neglected by the media.

And, while people are very excited to be getting attention in these pages, it is not as if the county’s residents were suffering from an identity crisis just because the media failed to take much notice of them.

If there seems to be a common thread among Woodford County residents when it comes to the media it is an anger about the majority of attention arising when something negative happens.

I get the feeling Woodford County residents know how they fit in the Tri-County Area.

The answer, however, evades me just yet.

A little over a month among you does not give me sufficient perspective, in my view, to form a conclusion.

What I do know is I have been amazed at the amount of activities going on.

My former perception — and I suspect that of many others in Peoria and Tazewell counties — was that Woodford County was a sleepy place.

How wrong I was.

Woodford County is keeping me and two interns on our toes.

Still I have not yet been in the county long enough to answer my own question — “How does Woodford County fit in?”

So, I took that question to two people whose opinions matter to me.

The first was Vickie Clark, COO of the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois.

“I would not call the towns over there sleepy. They have brisk leaders. They have Eureka College, Parsons and S&S. They have industry. They’ve got entrepreneurs enjoying that hometown environment but access to a larger community,” Clark said.

“They have a good location with I-39 and 55 on the east side of the county. The proximity they have to Peoria is also an asset. They have some really innovative people.”

Woodford County, despite having a very small population base compared to Peoria and Tazewell counties, adds to the Tri-County’s diversity, Clark said.

“You’ve got Metamora and Germantown Hills which are close to Peoria. They are distinct communities,” Clark said. “Then you have agricultural areas. On the east side of the county there is tremendous growth potential with I-39.”

Dan DiOrio, co-host of the Greg and Dan Show on WMBD-AM, also had some opinions about how Woodford County fits in. He sat outside the Peoria Civic Center pontificating about Woodford County.

“I think it fits in by providing a good quality of life for its residents. They work and play here in Peoria and go to Woodford County to live. They go there for the good school districts,” DiOrio said.

“Maybe Woodford County is not a center of commerce but it does add to the commerce of the area. I think most people outside Woodford County don’t appreciate how they contribute. I think, maybe, people in Woodford County have a leave us alone mentality.”

DiOrio added he believes Woodford County residents do not want to see the county grow quickly and face the challenges of expansion.

“I think they see all the expansion here and the taxes and the bickering that goes with it. They may want to just watch what happens here and learn from it,” DiOrio said.

“There’s a lot of potential in Woodford County. It’s just there are those who want to protect what they have and fear growing too quickly.”

So, what do you think of these perspectives?

Agree?

Disagree?

I’d like to hear from you.

How do you see Woodford County fitting in?