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Community gains vision for future

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

As Reweti Wiki envisions his new job, he will be working to "manage the trust and expectations" of numerous people who are interested in creating a more viable community.

"There are a lot of traditional stakeholders at the table with expectations," said Wiki, who was recently tapped to lead the Community Progress Initiative Program unveiled by the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce.

The new concept will become a collaboration of the chamber, Elk Valley and Smith River Rancherias, Del Norte County, the Yurok Tribe, Rural Human Services, the City of Crescent City, Del Norte Unified School District, Humboldt Area Foundation, Del Norte County Health Care District, Crescent City Harbor District, Pacific Power and Green Diamond Resources once it's up and running.

The initiative, which is presently asking for community input on its name, will take six months to get up and running.

"The first six months is about dialogue, about getting the community to change," Wiki said. "It's daunting; there are so many expectations."

Internal desire for change

The newly launched group is the result of the community's desire to change. It is not based on the opinion or advice of an expert from outside of the area, Wiki said.

"It's too easy to hire in an expert and trust that he will deliver," he said.

During the past few months two such experts, Australian entrepreneur David Beurle and California's Wayne Schell, have visited, spoken with, prodded, probed and advised Del Norte County about its strengths and weaknesses.

But experts come into a community briefly, then vacate it without imparting any useable knowledge, Wiki explained.

"When a community wants to reinvent itself, it has to be done internally," he said.

Wiki compares the process to that of a person who hires a personal trainer to help him develop a better body. No results occur until the person decides to change from within, he said.

Empowering the people

The Community Progress Initiative Program, Wiki said, is "all about Del Norte County empowering its own people, empowering itself to effect change."

"What needs to happen is to aim above that, to step outside of the box and enable perceived competing agendas to work together," he said.

The present perception among county residents with whom Wiki has spoken is that Del Norte County is "static."

"Our statistics are always the lowest in the state," Wiki said. "We have to build a strong grassroots community."

Years will pass before Del Norte County transcends its present situation, but key to the effort is managing local residents' expectations, then engineering the community and implementing residents' ideas.

In order to accomplish the goal—a self-reliant and entrepreneurial culture in Del Norte County—Wiki envisions first achieving a long list of goals that include:

•Professional job development

•Creating a small business/entrepreneurial environment

•Developing support for local businesses

•Providing education to those who are effecting the changes

•Encouraging community collaboration

•Involving local American Indian tribes in the process

•Improving local infrastructure, which will improve substandard local transportation

•Beefing up technology

•Making the area more attractive

•Improving quality health care

•Providing affordable housing to residents.

"We are launching our initiative Aug. 17," Wiki said. "We're preparing marketing materials to go out and rolling up our sleeves."

As participants in the grassroots effort ready themselves for the long haul, on their ‘To Do' list are a slew of goals keyed to community building, youth and leadership.

Among them are a New Ideas speaker series, Community Building Courses, an eight-month community Leadership program, Youth Leadership development, a Youth Entrepreneurship program, Circles of Support networks through which families can find their way to prosperity, Community Care Days and improving local government officials' leadership skills.

Although the goal seems distant now, Wiki said that the groundwork that's being carefully laid now will enable a strong base to develop—a base that will change its own community from its present iteration into one in which residents can take pride, function in a more healthy way and be happy.

"Vix popli vox die, the voice of the people is the voice of God," he translated. "We don't need permission to change."

The group will need money to effect the changes it wants to enable. Monetary donations from partners include the city ($30,000) and county ($60,000) governments, and the rancherias (Smith River, $20,000; Elk Valley, $25,000; and the Yurok tribe, which has not yet donated money but is part of the partnership), Del Norte Unified School District (in-kind) and Rural Human Services (in-kind, about $60,000), Harbor District (to be determined cash donation), Del Norte Health Care District (to be determined) Humboldt Area Foundation (a total of $22,000, which launched the initiative), Pacific Power (to be determined) and Green Diamond Resource Company ($1,500).

"This will work," said Chamber President Chris Howard. "We've taken a lot of steps since 1994."

Among them are the 20-20 plan, the Gateway Partnership, Comprehensive Development Initiative and the "partnering" that went on in hiring the former director of Tri-Agency Economic Development, Kim Schmidt.

"Those have all shown the link between community and economic development," Howard said. "It's pretty important to have the community buy into progress."

Also important, Howard said, is creating a forum for individuals "who are not part of an organization" to get involved.

"This gives it to them," he said.

Community leader Wiki's life filled with family, culture

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Reweti Wiki is a man motivated by love—his love for his "soul mate," Geneva, and his love for his community.

"I believe that you have an obligation to build and contribute to your community, and Geneva and I have certainly made that commitment as a family," Wiki said. "Through her work founding the Klamath River Early College to re-empower our youth—all youth—and through this new role to re-empower our entire community, we are in our own way making Del Norte somewhere that our children can be proud to live."

Reweti's love brought him, a member of the Maori tribe, from his native New Zealand to Del Norte County in 2004.

He moved here after meeting his wife, Geneva, in Washington, D.C. while the two were fellows on an indigenous leadership exchange program.

He had studied business and law in New Zealand and had launched his professional life as a management consultant for the Andersen Consulting company (now called Accenture, ACN).

From that beginning, he began his own consulting firm, specializing in rural community and economic development. His most recent role was as Deputy Executive Director of the Yurok Tribe.

The couple are parents to a 2-year-old daughter who "consumes the majority of our time."

"As such, down time in our household is close to non-existent," Wiki said. "If there is the odd moment of spare time in our lives, then I will occupy it with reading and playing a variety of instruments including the ukulele, guitar and piano."

But he and Geneva are also actively involved with a number of national and regional initiatives so their evenings tend to be filled with strategic planning, conference calls and "the odd round of Wheels on the Bus."

Because the Wikis come from different cultural backgrounds, his Maori and her Yurok heritages, the couple tries to expose their daughter to as much of the dual cultures as is possible.

"I am a native speaker of the Maori language, and my family has a long tradition of actively working to preserve and enhance our culture," he said. "My parents are both Maori language high school teachers."

Wiki's sister is an attorney, his brother presently is studying law.

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