Dear Chamber Supporters:
Merry Christmas…a day early!! After a week of untypically warm December weather, the temperature finally did drop to an appropriate Christmas time Fahrenheit…albeit no white Christmas. Still, it was 60 degrees last Monday, the day of the planet conjunction…being called by some as the Christmas Star sensation, I was less than impressed. Here are pictures if you didn’t go out to see Jupiter and Saturn lining up in a row in the closest they have been in 800-years. Oh…and spoiler alert, if you missed it, you only have to wait another 800-years to see it again!      
While not terribly impressive, I’m always a sucker for night-time phenomenon…and so what – the temp was 50 degrees in December…it was clear and a beautiful night to be out! Monday was also the day the Sun heads back north – after the longest night spring is headed our way! That is something positive on which to dwell. Now only to endure January!!
Chamber Currency:
We have been encouraging all to support our local merchants and buy local…one way to do that is by purchasing Chamber Currency from the Chamber. We make no money on this program…but every Chamber dollar purchased and spent is returned to our home community…to our businesses who pay local property tax. In the last 2-weeks, we have sold over $15,000.00 of our local currency purchased for Christmas gifts and giveaways. The Ottawa money is a great item to stick in a Christmas card or someone’s stocking. Thanks to all who bought the currency to support shopping local…and it is not too late! We sell the currency year-round…it is only more popular at Christmas but also good for birthdays, graduations or to say thank-you to someone. 
City Commission:  
While not official yet, the City Commissioners in their last study session discussed and unanimously agreed on their reorganization for 2021. By the Kansas Constitution, the new mayor is sworn in on the second Monday of January…with a City Manager/Commissioner form of governance, the 5-elected commissioners select the mayor from their ranks. Tom Weigand has served in the capacity for 2020…in 2021, Mayor pro tem, Sara Caylor will move up to mayor and Eric Crowley will back her as the mayor pro tem. Thanks to all who serve our community on the City Commission…along with the 3 aforementioned, Mike Skidmore Blake Jorgensen round out the 5-member volunteer commission. Richard Nienstedt has served admirably as City Manager for the last 13 years…thanks to all!! Here’s hoping for fewer challenges in 2021!!
Familiar Face Retiring: 
After near 60-years, a familiar downtown barber is hanging up his scissors…Rex Browning of Rex’s Barber and Hair Salon will retire on December 31. Congrats Rex…you deserve to take it easier. Here are a couple of pictures of Rex. Rex started cutting my hair in 1969…I was in the 7th grade and up until this time my mom cut my hair. Once in Junior High I wanted to change this arrangement and began going to Rex…then located next to the Kansas State Bank on North Main Street. 50-years later Rex has been my barber all this time. Rex is one-of-a-kind…old school!! I’ll have to admit I will miss our conversations…Rex is always plugged into the life of Ottawa. You get a perspective which few do while listening to patrons as you cut their hair. Congratulations on retirement! I should mention the shop is not closing – daughter Suzanne Watts who now owns the business has a staff of very capable barbers and beauticians. Rex’s legacy will live on in downtown Ottawa for years to come. 
COVID Update: 
The news continues to be steady for the local COVID report…it remains for the most part unchanged again this week. We are up only a few active cases…from 176 active cases, up 10 to 186 with an additional death bringing the fatality total to 18 (here is the December 23 report). Still…this being said – the news remains positive on the pandemic front because of the rollout of the vaccine. Everyone can now get in line for a vaccination…you will be prioritized by your age and stated health conditions. Once your place in line comes up, you will be notified of your appointment time – to get in line call 785.229.3531…you will reach someone from the Franklin County Health Department who will help you with the process. Cherry and I both got on the list this week…even though it will be late winter before our names are called.
Congress finally agreed on a second stimulus package…albeit President Trump now says he will not sign it – setting up one final drama as the balance of power slides to President-elect Biden in mid-January. Both houses of Congress passed the legislation with override numbers, but it would mean a trip back to Washington during their holiday break for Congressmen to vote the veto down. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (as it is being called) provides a $600 stimulus for all individuals, continuation of unemployment benefits and additional payroll protection lending…just to give you the highlights. You can read a more complete version of the relief package here. As details and applications become available we will keep you updated.
Christmas Cookies:
This is the time of year for baking at our house…and I’m sure at yours too. Here are pictures of making Christmas Cookies with grandma!! Also…here are a few pictures from school and church renditions. 
A Very Merry Christmas!!:
We at the Chamber hope you have the very Merriest of Christmases…we all deserve to be happy this year. In closing I’d like to offer my favorite Christmas story/scripture…I have always loved the Gospel of John’s prologue…John 1: 1-18. John is the only gospel which doesn’t give us a manger scene with shepherds, angels and Wisemen. Instead, John talks about the beginning when there was only the Word – and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and came into the world…and that life was the light which couldn’t be extinguished by the dark. His writing is very philosophical and allegorical. The prologue is short…I encourage you to read it this Christmas. Right now, the light which John refers…which cannot be extinguished…must shine in and through us until such time the true light returns…Blessing to all of you!!
Onward ~ John 
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce