Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Terry Woodbury
Founder, Public Square Communities

Leoti, Kansas
Farm Credit Affiliation
Frontier Farm Credit
Terry's Perspective

Terry Woodbury is an advocate for improving communities by modeling the "public square" of his rural youth, where business, government, education and human services sectors were physically positioned around the town square, and where people came together as volunteers and institutions to serve the community.

After 25 years of success in improving Kansas’ Wyandotte County, Terry started Public Square Communities to rebuild the public squares in more areas. Terry and his colleagues have worked with hundreds of citizens in a unique civic engagement effort that identifies, connects and develops community volunteers who transform towns, cities, counties and regions into thriving communities that nourish youth, engage citizens and foster partnerships.

“My aim is to reverse rural decline,” says Terry, who says he draws inspiration from the Bible. “Developing civic leaders – people who can energize others, diagnose problems, convene all segments of the community, foster bold visioning and persevere through difficult times – is the core of my work.”

The Public Square model has led to many examples of sharing rural town and county resources. It was used to increase one rural town’s population and to rebuild others after devastating tornados in 2007 and 2011. It has been used in numerous communities to resolve conflict and build relationships, develop infrastructure, increase access to quality housing, provide career opportunities, encourage youth to return home, improve health care, rebuild main streets, and in general, strengthen community foundations. Most importantly, the Public Square process has engaged rural citizens in developing a vision for their own communities and making them an integral force in implementation.

Across a decade in Kansas and Missouri, the Public Square process has recruited civic-minded residents from all sectors, facilitated their leadership of community conversations and visioning events, and coached them in guiding citizen-driven action teams to accomplish a wide range of achievements. These include bond elections for capital projects, new housing, city/county consolidation, street repair, parks, community theatres, youth mentoring, web marketing, fitness facilities and more.

“My hope is that the next generation will see that, minus a community, their inherited enterprise is unsustainable,” says Terry. “Greeley County’s population reversal embodies my hope.”

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