One of the things one hears politicians both in Washington and in Topeka talk about a great deal these days is the importance of small business to the United States. I fully agree, but I also think that these same politicians have forgotten that small towns are equally as important to the future of our nation. Just as the United States owes its industrial and retail success to two centuries of small business, our country has been built upon the small towns of America.
Just look at some of our greatest presidents. Lincoln came from Springfield, Ill. Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kan., and Truman came from Independence, Mo. It has been the small towns across America that have formed the backbone of our rural communities serving both merchants and farmers. When a small town dies, the surrounding region also dies with it. Just as significant, small towns lie at the heart of the American experience; they continue to be at the center of our national identity.
Lecompton is a small town that has refused to die and refused to give in to economic decline. Although overshadowed by its municipal neighbor to the south, Lecompton has continued to grow, to seek new businesses, and to provide the kind of small town atmosphere that attracts new residents. It is the home to one of the most important historical sites in Kansas — the Territorial Capitol Museum — as well as Lane University, where President Eisenhower’s parents met.
New stores are opening in its small downtown. New houses continue to be built, and the town has invested millions in a new water treatment plant. Just a few miles outside the city near Interstate 70, new industrial facilities are being planned and more seem to be in the offing. But all this intense economic and cultural activity could be derailed by a proposed change in the status of the Lecompton Post Office.
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed relocating the three rural mail carriers currently based at the Lecompton Post Office to the post office in Perry. Such a relocation would lower the classification of the Lecompton Post Office and leave it highly vulnerable to closure in a few years as a cost-saving measure. Of course, the folks in Washington don’t seem to care much about one small town in Kansas. Indeed, it’s not clear to me that they even realize that Perry is in an entirely different county. Nor do they seem to understand that moving the carriers — and, perhaps, the post office thereafter — would damage the potential growth of Lecompton and Douglas County.
Unfortunately, Lecompton is a small town and, while its residents care about it deeply and strive to assure its future prosperity, it doesn’t have much political clout in Washington. But Lecompton’s future is not only important to Lecompton, but also to Lawrence and to all of Douglas County. Having small cities prosper and grow in the area surrounding Lawrence will help Lawrence prosper and grow.
It is not too late to convince the Postal Service and the Washington politicians to abandon the proposed changes to the Lecompton Post Office and help Lecompton to succeed, not force its decline. America needs small towns like Lecompton and it would be a tragedy to lose them.