As many of you know, there is talk about drug abuse in our communities. Sadly, looking at any community in today’s culture, one would be naïve to think there is no drug abuse happening, even if undetected or unreported. This is evidenced by the astounding 197 people per day losing their lives as a result of a drug overdose in the United States (usda.gov). That is more than the casualties from either car accidents or gun-related homicides. As mayor of the city of Bigfork, it is my elected duty to lead this city forward to the best of my ability… and right now that means addressing the issue of drug abuse, of both prescription and non-prescription drugs.

As your mayor and as a local pastor, this issue pains my heart. Drug addiction and abuse deteriorates families, hurts our loved ones (especially our children), and has a crippling effect on our society. Personally I have been helping those caught in addiction for several years through volunteering and by financially supporting Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based recovery program. It is not my intention to see people thrown in jail, separated from family, or suffering on account of their addiction. However, there are times when an addiction becomes so controlling that it causes actions which carry consequences, and for society to move forward those consequences at times must be carried out.

As your mayor, I will work with law enforcement and do what is necessary for the good of our amazing city of Bigfork. I have been in contact with Sheriff Williams’ office and will continue to support their efforts to remove the blight of drug abuse from among us. If you are promoting, selling, distributing, or using drugs illegally in any way, I encourage you to stop immediately and seek help. Your family and true friends will be glad, and it is my hope that they will stand by you as you make every effort to turn your life around. If, however, you decide to continue unlawful behavior, I will stand behind the effort of the sheriff’s department to enforce the laws and ordinances upheld by the city of Bigfork, the state of Minnesota, and the United States of America.

Allow me to address the idea of working with law enforcement for a moment. It can be very difficult at times to make a decision to assist the sheriff’s office with their investigations. We live in a rural community where anyone we run into is either a neighbor, a friend, and/or a family member. While we live in a relatively safe place, the patterns of drug and alcohol addiction or abuse all lead to a place of social instability and violence. So it is for our neighbors, friends, and families that we must make the hard choices. We need to step up in the absence of a local police department and assist Sheriff Williams’ office in doing its job. If we expect their help when we need it, I think it is fair to expect our community to help them when they need it.

If I may, please allow me to address you on a personal level. When I was elected to the office of mayor, I promised my family and my congregation that I would not allow the political office to change my personal views and beliefs. I am sure some of you do not agree with my religious views, and that is okay. As mayor I do not intend to use my office as a means of pushing my religion on anyone. While I know I will make mistakes, I will always operate according to my beliefs, as doing otherwise would reduce me to hypocrisy. It is with this understanding that I submit the following:

Jesus gave me the example that I try to live by. In the Gospel of Luke chapter 19 we read of a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors were known in that time to be swindlers and cheats, using their office for personal gain at the expense of the people. When Jesus encountered this swindler, He befriended the man and saw the man’s life changed. I believe we do more good in our community by befriending others than by shunning them. As a pastor in this community – and I believe this is true of every pastor in our town – if you need a place to turn for help, I would be honored to be allowed to be considered your friend. I believe people can change; and if you are committed to making every effort to better your life, I will stand beside you and support you to the best of my ability.

I ask you: if you are in a place where you can’t live without a substance – be it drugs, alcohol, or something else completely – reach out for help. If you have had the thought, “Maybe I have a problem” – reach out for help. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness that causes you to consider using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate – reach out for help. If you know someone who needs help, be a friend and encourage them to get help today. If you are in that place and don’t know where to turn, dial 2-1-1 and there are people equipped with resources to find you the help you need.

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. It is my hope that our community will always come together to be united for the common good. We are a strong, healthy community facing issues that are common in rural areas. That does not excuse the issues, however, and we must work together to see our region move forward to be even healthier and stronger tomorrow.

If you would like a copy of this letter, please stop by Bigfork City Hall between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., email cityclerk@bigfork.net or call 218-743-3782.

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