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Small town aids in trash, tree removal





LIEBENTHAL -- Medesa Sander never liked politics. She registered to vote four years ago and recently was elected mayor "by accident."

"I was asked to be on city council," she said. "I was coerced to run for mayor. Our last mayor resigned and moved out of town, so the city was in a pickle. No one on the current city council wanted the position, and everyone said I would be great."

The town hosted the Liebenthal Cleanup on Friday and Saturday, an annual tradition where community members volunteer to pick up materials, trim trees and throw away trash. For the first time, the volunteers are members of the city's governing body.

"The governing body actually helped by trimming trees all over town and offered other services to residents," Sander said. "Our governing body is trying to get our residents and our community to come together again. Everyone is usually to themselves. We're trying to get everyone involved with each other again, and I think it's working."

Rush County volunteered two trucks, and Golden Belt Telephone trucks towed heavy materials as well. Sander, along with city council members and city employees, went house to house asking residents if they needed help.

The idea began with a house in town that always had materials in the yard.

"I'm not the type of mayor that is going to send out a letter to anybody telling them to clean up," Sander said. "We're people-people. We'll go and knock on doors. I went over and talked to this particular resident, and we did the majority of the work. He's an elderly man, a diabetic who recently lost a couple toes. He can't get around very easily. I was brought up to know a little work won't hurt anybody, and it makes me feel good to see the outcome. It's amazing what it looks like now."

The city hauled away 17 loads of materials. Most materials were dumped in the Rush County landfill at no charge. Salvageable material was taken to Rohr's Recycling in La Crosse, and the profit was split between Rush County and Golden Belt.

"I grew up here," said Sheila Herman, city clerk. "Back in the day, that's how people survived. Everyone helped each other. Why should it be any different now?"

Sander said this year brought in the biggest turnout for volunteers wanting to help, as well as residents wanting to beautify the town.

"I want our town to be as beautiful as it was years ago," Sander said. "The cleanup was a great success. We're going to give back to our community, and we still have a lot of cleaning to do. It was a lot of hard work. It was a lot of sweat, but none of us griped. We all got along, and it was fun. If I had to do it again tomorrow, I would."