In 2021, Vice Mayor Ruth Hughs wants to see the Eudora community connect.

Hughs is optimistic a new year will bring a shift away from the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has had on personal connections.

"I am very hopeful about this, that we will get back to not hiding behind COVID and not feeling controlled by COVID," Hughs said. "COVID will be something that isn't going to dominate our life because advances have been made to put it where it's not such a threat."

City and business officials told the Eudora Times what they're hoping for in 2021 for the community.

Chamber Executive Director Karen Boyer said the business community was aided in 2020 with economic opportunities, such as grants for downtown businesses. The Chamber is working on a project to help businesses by using funding provided by Douglas County to distribute gift cards from businesses to Eudora residents in need.

The Chamber is also in the process of forming a strategic plan for future local business goals. Boyer said the plan will aim to target goals such as improving communication between Chamber members, growing the Chamber as a resource and advocating for local businesses.

Businesses in town have implemented measures over the last year from curbside pickup to adding more virtual options. This year, the Chamber plans to hold safe summer events when possible as well as virtual events and fundraisers.

Boyer said bringing new businesses to Eudora and bringing attention to existing businesses through social media are two of her priorities this year.

"I want Eudora to be thought of as a thriving community more than a bedroom community," Boyer said. "My goals in the Chamber as the executive director reflect that. I want us to be out there."

In 2020, the Eudora Convention and Visitors Bureau pivoted away from some of its typical functions and traded planning community events for things like promoting businesses in town. When it was possible, the CVB held virtual and distanced events outdoors or through Zoom.

"We erred on the side of safety every time," former CVB President Elizabeth Knispel said. "It was just an interesting year to be doing it, but I think we have a lot of new momentum going forward. Now that we kind of know what we're dealing with a little bit more, I think the group is more willing to think outside the box."

New CVB President Mary Kirkendoll said she hopes the organization can hold fundraisers and events when coming together is possible, such as an outdoor nonprofit and business fair where the community can learn more about the organizations and businesses in the community.

"I hope that it would help get the other members excited about the CVB," Kirkendoll said. "I think we could make that happen in 2021."

In addition to addressing shortfalls with utility payments and utilizing CARES funding, Mayor Tim Reazin said creativity and inclusiveness will be important as the city continues planning projects.

He said it will be one of his top priorities in the coming year to improve communication and getting information out to the community.

After months of residents looking for activity during COVID, Reazin said he is more aware than ever of what the Parks and Recreation Department does for the community. He hopes to see the community continue to use the city's trails and parks and for them to understand the importance of the city investing in growing them, especially through periods of isolation and separation due to COVID-19.

"I would love to see people continue to utilize those things through 2021," Reazin said. "The more space we have for that, the better it is and the easier it is for folks to be able to get out and do things on their own."

City staff attended a strategic planning retreat in 2020 to generate ideas for city projects and priorities. Hughs said three of the goals that came out of this retreat and that are already in action are the Nottingham redevelopment project, continuing to grow the Parks and Rec Department and updating the city's infrastructure.

"2021 is going to be busy," Hughs said. "In this first quarter, we're going to sit down and revisit all those priorities and make some adjustments that we need to make."

Hughs recognizes the negative effects of senior citizens in Eudora being homebound last year and said the Eudora Senior Foundation is working to be proactive about it. Despite the challenges of living through a pandemic, Hughs thinks it gave Eudora a chance to pause and recognize the importance of family in 2020.

"We have realized that there are daisies to be smelled and things to do, like using the new trails and biking and getting outdoors more," Hughs said. "I think people reimagined how to do life differently. We're just learning how to navigate this in a positive way."

As city officials and members of the business community move forward in the year's first quarter, Hughs is optimistic about the city continuing to grow in 2021.

"We're in the beginning of some wonderful new opportunities for the city of Eudora and we are excited," Hughs said. "We're working hard to lay groundwork so that we can move ahead economically."

Reach reporter Lucie Krisman at eudoratimes@gmail.com.

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