I have been here in town now for more than two weeks. It has been a lot of fun so far getting to know the staff here at the Oskaloosa Herald, as well as the two other newspapers I am tasked with supervising—the Pella Chronicle and the Knoxville Journal Express.

During the more than two weeks I've been here, one thing I have made a point to do is get out and about and to meet as many folks around the community as possible. I have walked around downtown and introduced myself to local business owners, said hello and given out my business cards.

The folks at Smokey Row already know me well: I'm the guy who gets the weird coffee order of ice, coffee then milk. Sorry for being one of those "complicated coffee drinkers."

One thing that nearly every person I have met has asked me is a simple question: why did you move to Oskaloosa?

Normally this question is posed to me in a quizzacle manner, i.e. why would you move here? As if there is no good answer and there is no reason to move here. These people seemed surprised that I landed in Oskaloosa after living in big cities such as Houston, Pittsburgh and Sacramento.

My answer is simple: because Oskaloosa is cool. And, it has a lot more to offer than one might think.

I don't need to tell you, our loyal readers, what makes Oskaloosa cool, but I will tell you what attracted me to this city and region.

For one, it's a great little town with a lot to offer. There are prominent, world-renowned businesses like Musco Lighting and many others. The downtown is in the process of being revitalized and, while still a work in progress, I love the downtown feel of the square, bandstand and historic courthouse.

Did I mention William Penn University? It is a small school that brings in students, staff and faculty from not only all over Iowa, but across the United States and other parts of the world. All you need to do is look at the license plates on vehicles around town to see there are people from all parts of our great nation.

I like university towns for many reasons, including the vibrancy that a young student population brings to town. In addition to the culture a college brings to a community, there is also sports, entertainment and academic offerings that are associated with a university that allow for more opportunities to experience the variety of life.

We also have an excellent food scene on our hands, with a burgeoning Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Five Points Heritage Farm, the summer and new winter farmers market, and NoCoast Beer Co. making excellent craft beer.

Did I mention Big Ed's BBQ? They're making some tasty meat deliciousness over there in the traditional Illinois/Chicago style.

Another thing that attracted me to this city is the region Oskaloosa sits in. The triangular area from Oskaloosa northwest to Pella and down to Knoxville and back to Oskaloosa is a very vibrant area. Toss in Red Rock Lake, the wealth of outdoor activities available around Mahaska County and let's not forget Peace Tree Brewing Co. in Knoxville, and you have a great area filled with all sorts of fun stuff.

And, it's all in a day's drive. Oh yeah, there are many other reasons to live here: you'll be hard-pressed to get stuck in a big-city traffic jamb here in Oskaloosa, the cost of living is drastically lower than in big urban areas and we have a great arts scene with FACE and the Book Vault.

But, first and foremost, one of the biggest reasons to live here is the people. Y'all are super friendly and welcoming. I experienced that first hand when I moved to Hampton, Iowa, up north in Franklin County, and it's no different here. The folks in Iowa are some of the friendliest I've met in my travels across the country.

I hope this helps explain why I am here, as well as give you some insight into the things that are important to me. Above all, I am super excited to be here as editor of the Herald, as well as the Chronicle and Journal Express. Our goal is to bring the readers and community the best news product possible in print and online. We will work hard, be fair and report the news in an accurate and non-biased manner.

If you have a tip, or just want to say hello, feel free to stop by the Herald offices or catch me around town. I usually wear a tie (except on weekends) and occasionally have a rogue cat hair on my jacket. 

Jeff Forward is the editor of the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at 641-672-2581 or via email at regionaleditor@oskyherald.com.

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