This week in The Times: Courtney Oertel

Courtney Oertel 111109-WVitals: Courtney Oertel, 30, is a nonprofit consultant who works with many 501(c)(3) organizations across the Rock River Valley and the nation. Originally from Iowa, she moved to Rockford in 1989. Oertel holds a double bachelor’s degree in arts administration, with an emphasis in nonprofit development, and photography from Prescott College. She attended the master’s program in International Relations and Development at Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark, from 2003 to 2005. In her spare time, Oertel dotes on her dogs and enjoys the craft of historical image-making processes.

1. If you could choose any elected official – local, state or national – to speak with one-on-one, who would it be, and what would you say? I would choose, rather, to walk in to the next G8 summit and say: STOP!

2. If you were to move away from the Rock River Valley, what three things would you miss the most? When I was gone for seven years, I missed the River District and the community we have created here. I also missed coffee chats on the porch with my mom, and Shawn’s cosmopolitans at Brio. In all my travels, they have just never tasted right except when he makes them.

3. What do you feel city officials could do to promote furthering the arts here in Rockford? The first thing they could do is truly listen to those already working hard at promoting the arts here in Rockford. They are some of the most passionate and competent minds in our community – raise the Arts Council budget for marketing and project grants to strengthen collaborative efforts between artists and arts organizations. In my experience, the greatest success in development comes from focusing on what already exists instead of attempting to reinvent according to the wishes of a few. If we commit ourselves to strengthening educational programs and resources in the arts for our community, we will succeed at putting Rockford back on the map as an arts destination.

4. In your opinion, what could be done to improve safety in Rockford schools? Honestly, there is no simple answer or solution. Violence in schools is a reflection of the students’ sense of reality. And, the reality is that every element of this global community is in a constant state of flux, changing constantly. So, all we can attempt to do is create safe, respectful and stable environments at home and at school. We should create as many opportunities for our youth to be engaged in activities that create a sense of purpose for them. Idle minds, as they always say…well, and sugar.

5. Question from last week’s “This week in The Times” participant Joan Zimmerman: What should Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) do to fix the Rockford economy? I am certain Mayor Morrissey (I) and the [Rockford Area] Economic Development Council are working diligently to find solutions to our economic crisis, which is a global issue and is not easily “fixed.” While they are busy doing their jobs, I suggest we take some responsibility and focus on what we can do to support ourselves. Supporting local businesses and products through our spending habits is an essential component. Eat local foods grown by local farmers, and if you are dining out, choose a locally-owned restaurant. Skip Wal-Mart and do your best to shop at locally-owned stores and purchase locally-manufactured products. There are so many easy ways to support ourselves, and all it will take is a little thoughtfulness and, perhaps, a new habit or two. Also, at Christmas time, remember our local organizations that thrive because we support them. So, instead of another sweater or video game, think of gifts such as memberships to the Rockford Art Museum or the Discovery Center or a gift in the name of your loved one to Crusader Clinic, Janet Wattles, The Literacy Council, Carpenter’s Place, Rock Valley College, The Rockford Area Arts Council and the list goes on.

“This week in The Times” is a weekly survey of people selected by The Rock River Times staff. The column does not accept unsolicited submissions.

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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