Carlisle Strong

Aerial image of campus and community.

by Lauren Davidson

What defines a “strong town”? It’s about the sense of community, the grassroots initiatives, the collaborative approach to problem solving. So when Strong Towns, a national media nonprofit that supports and promotes local communities and commerce, launched its inaugural Strongest Towns competition, a group of Carlisle residents—including several Dickinson employees—thought, “Why not us?”

“Strong Towns looks for progressive towns that actively seek opportunities to connect people in their community,” explains Brenda Landis, Dickinson’s multimedia specialist and member of the Carlisle West Side Neighbors community organization.

Landis collaborated with Chris Varner, Elm Street project manager; Andrea Crouse, Carlisle borough parks and recreation director; Neil Leary, director of Dickinson’s Center for Sustainability Education and co-chair of the Greater Carlisle Project; and Debra Figueroa, Carlisle’s assistant borough manager, to submit a portfolio of Carlisle’s strengths to the competition.

The portfolio included photographs that depict the town’s strength and resilience and responses to questions ranging from what transportation options are available to how has the town adapted to the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Strong Towns began with a March Madness bracket-based approach, with 16 contestants, narrowing the field down to the Elite 8, the Final 4 and then the top two: Carlisle and Hoboken, N.J. Residents came out in droves to vote Carlisle soundly through each round, with the town garnering 52 percent of the final vote.

“In each iteration of the Strongest Town contest, Carlisle stood out for its diverse and supportive community,” noted the Strong Towns website, “which has helped to shape this town into a truly wonderful place to live.”

“We have a great base of people who believe in this town,” Landis adds. “The people who not only live here but used to live here, they all came together to push us over the top.”

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Published July 12, 2016