Young pioneers bring ideas, fresh start to Greensburg

This photo shows Greensburg 10 years after the May 4, 2007 tornado. (KSN Photo)
This view from the grain elevator in Greensburg shows the damage from the May 4, 2007 tornado. (KSN Photo)

GREENSBURG, Kan. (KSNW) – When people talk about Greensburg’s progress over the last 10 years, many are quick to mention the LEED certified, energy-efficient buildings and modern architecture.

KSN talked with Greensburg locals and found the progress lies not within the design of the town post tornado, but within the people there.

Ten years ago it might have been hard to imagine people moving to Greensburg, but today, the city is drawing a new demographic from around the country.

“It’s really a unique place here in Kansas that drew me out,” said Kyler Ludwig.

That uniqueness isn’t drawn from the fact the 95 percent of the town was destroyed by a tornado in 2007 but rather, everything that followed.

RELATED LINKS Greensburg tornado damage photos | May 4, 2007 tornado devastates Greensburg

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“There’s a culture that was created from the tornado where I think that everyone who rebuilt here is a pioneer,” said Kyler Ludwig, Greensburg City Administrator

“There’s a culture that was created from the tornado where I think that everyone who rebuilt here is a pioneer,” Ludwig, the Greensburg City Administrator said.

Today, the 10 year anniversary draws a mixed reaction from residents.

“It is a really tough time for a lot of people but also a time of celebration to see where we’ve been in the last ten years, how far we’ve grown,” he said.

Ludwig sees the city through a new lens. He didn’t have any ties to Greensburg before he decided to move to town just two years ago from Goddard, inspired by the city’s spirit.

“They decided to come back and to rebuild, which means that people here are more involved than I’ve ever seen in another community,” Ludwig said.

Much of that involvement stems from the city’s younger generation; a generation, Mayor Bob Dixson tells KSN is the focus of Greensburg’s progress today.

“Since the tornado, the dramatic change has been the youth have started coming back to our community as jobs have been provided,” Dixson said.

MEET THE NEW RESIDENTS OF GREENSBURG

The magic happening over at the Kiowa County Media Center is a testimony to that.

The media center’s creative director, Grant Neuhold, found Greensburg by way of Colorado, enticed by the job and the town’s insistence on looking forward.

“The city leaders could have said ‘Let’s put everything back the same,’ but instead they said, ‘Let’s look to the future. Let’s see about putting in something like the media center that’s different from anything that we’ve ever had or that anybody else has,’” Neuhold said.

That media center is used for everything from HD-TV production, to radio services and education across western Kansas.

Mike McBeath fell in love with Greensburg in 2008 when he left his home in Phoenix to volunteer during the recovery effort.

After a short time spent on the west coast, it’s opportunities with the media center that drew McBeath back.

“Being able to build these places like the media center and the theater and everything else that we’re doing, I think there’s a lot of opportunities to continue that trend; continue with the green aspect and just keep building really cool stuff for the future,” he said.

The Twilight Theatre is just one of the buildings completed in the last two years. (KSN Photo)

That same young ambition is echoed across the city.

“It always blows my mind that there’s a town at all,” said Julie Keeton, a pharmacist at the Kiowa County Pharmacy.

Keeton grew up in Ness City but always wanted to work in a community that didn’t already have a pharmacy.

That’s exactly what she got when she moved to Greensburg five years ago.

A staple in the community, the pharmacy helped anchor the fragile town during the rebuilding process.

“Adding new businesses, especially more long term businesses like pharmacies and clinics and the whole hospital and the schools are just a good sign to people that it’s okay to stay and it’s okay to invest time and effort into the community because it’s a long term thing,” Keeton said.

Now, 10 years later, thinking long term is key to moving forward.

“We were always taught if you take care of the land it will take care of you,” Dixson said. “And we were taught to leave it better than you found it.”

With that, the city continues its rebirth with a group of young pioneers leading the way.

“We’re back. We’re Greensburg and we’re back,” Neuhold said.


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