Published first on the Progress News, November 9, 2020

As I’m sure is abundantly clear by now, redevelopment is all about People.  Sure, we work on the places and things around us, but the reason for the work is to create the best life possible for as many people as possible, now and into the future.  And it takes people to do that work.  People who are dedicated to the greater good, to the future, to giving of themselves so that others may rise. 

Today I’d like to focus on one of the most inspirational people I’ve had the fortune to know here in the A-C Valley, someone who genuinely cares about others and who works tirelessly to ensure that everyone feels heard and valued:  Stephen Buzard.  Some of you may know “Buzzie” from school; born and raised in Eau Claire, he graduated from Moniteau in 2000.  Others may know Stephen and his father, Jack, from their kind and considerate care of your family in a time of grief; Jack – a local legend in his own right – founded Buzard Funeral Home in 1972 and Stephen has been a funeral director at both the Parker and Eau Claire locations since 2007.  Most recently, Stephen can be found wearing the hat of Mayor of Foxburg as well as being actively involved in the A-C Valley Blueprint Initiative, the Foxburg Country Club, and the ARTinC rail-trail group, while also finding the time and energy to be a loving and dedicated husband and father. 

Stephen’s activities are impressive enough, but I won’t hide the fact that I am completely jealous of his superpower:  the man can Talk.  He can talk to anyone, about anything, and whoever he is talking to will feel like they are the single most important person in the room.  Having been fortunate enough to get to know Stephen, his wife Sara, and their boys Jackson and Raylan over the years, I can attest that Stephen’s gregarious nature is no act, which makes it all the more impressive.  He is naturally and authentically curious, and he has a gift for knowing the right tone to use and the right questions to ask to draw others out of their shells and get them talking, starting meaningful, engaging conversations.    

That ability is incredibly valuable in the world of community redevelopment, where engaging with a wide range of people is crucial.  To work toward the greater good, you have to know what people are thinking, how they feel, what’s important to them.  You have to work hard to reach as many people in the community as possible, and even then, it can be confoundingly difficult to know what questions to ask, and how.  As a community member, it can be frustrating, too, wondering if anyone is actually listening to what you have to say.  Many communities struggle, sometimes even giving up, because they can’t figure out how to talk to each other.  With Stephen Buzard, we truly do have our own superhero working for us, helping us talk and connect and work together to create our best possible tomorrow.