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Record publisher announces plan for outreach forums

Get ready to give, and take.

That’s the idea behind “The Exchange,” a new series of bimonthly community discussions devoted to hot local issues on South Whidbey.

Record Publisher Sherry Mays announced the start of the series of speaker forums this week.

While South Whidbey has a history of high community involvement at public meetings devoted to lightening-rod-type topics, some have said such meetings seem tainted with ingrained biases. The Exchange will be different, bringing in outside voices with fresh perspectives on pressing issues. They might not seem lightning-hot, but they are sure to get people thinking.

“The idea for The Exchange came about when I realized how our island residents — and above all, our neighbors — were struggling to discuss important issues outside of volatile public meetings,” Mays said. “One of the responsibilities of the local newspaper is to be the facilitator in the sharing of ideas and information. The Exchange is a way to better inform our readers, and we look forward to moving these discussions online and into our newspaper.”

The Exchange kicks off Wednesday, March 15, with a local resident who been at the forefront of raising awareness about the state of Florida’s endangered water resources.

Russell Sparkman is the co-founder of Fusionspark Media in Langley. He has melded his background as an editorial photographer with Internet publishing to create original Web documentaries.

Since 2002, Sparkman has documented four major water-related stories in Florida; one of the projects, “Florida’s Springs: Protecting Nature’s Gems” won the online reporting award from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Sparkman is currently working on “Everglades: Currents of Change.”

“We are excited to have

Russell as our first speaker in our Exchange series. His storytelling ability is amazing,” Mays said.

“Not only is Russell’s work informative, it’s inspiring. And it’s inspiring the residents of Florida to make changes in their lifestyles; lifestyles and philosophies that affect their water quality.”

“Water is a universal concern,” she added. “When I saw the work that Fusionspark is doing in Florida, I realized that the water issues there are not unlike our issues here. Whidbey residents are greatly impacted by what their neighbors are doing when it comes to water quality.”

“We share an aquifer,” Mays said, and water quality is essential not only to Whidbey residents, but to Whidbey’s wildlife, on the island and around it.

Sparkman will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, in the Front Room at the Cash Store.

The second offering in The Exchange comes to Bayview in early April.

It will feature Michael Shuman, vice president for enterprise development at the Training & Development Corporation, and the author of “The Small-Mart Revolution” and “Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age.”

In his latest book, “The Small-Mart Revolution,” Shuman, who lives in Virginia, presents eight trends that show how the old “bigger is better” business model is obsolete, and how locally-owned businesses are the key to a healthy community and the future of sustainable business.

Shuman will speak from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, in the Front Room of the Bayview Cash Store.

“We want people to come out and discuss ways to make change here on Whidbey,” Mays said, and The Exchange is a start. “We look forward to bimonthly Exchanges to cover issues involving our natural environment, the local economy, the political process, as well as other social and environmental topics.”

Mays said that she immediately deviated from the bimonthly format to accommodate Michael Shuman’s schedule while he was here in Washington.

“Supporting and nurturing our local economy by helping to create a better plan for local consumption and spending habits is just one way we can work together as a community to become stronger collectively,” she said.

The Exchange is co-sponsored by Goosefoot Community Fund, who is providing meeting space for the forums.

“The great part about Bayview Corner is that it’s not only a central spot on South Whidbey, but it also offers myriad venues for The Exchange. I hope to move the discussions outdoors to the ampitheater come summertime,” Mays said.

If you have speaker ideas or would like to become an Exchange sponsor, contact Sherry Mays, 221-5300, or e-mail publisher@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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