Maple Valley Best Town for Families West of the Rockies
Posted by Anonymous
By now you have probably heard that Family Circle Magazine named Maple Valley as one of the 10 Best Towns for Families. It certainly came as a surprise to us as we weren't pursuing this designation but in Family Circle's search criteria - affordable homes, quality schools, access to health care, green space, low crime rate, and financial stability - Maple Valley made it on their list. It was all very exciting when that first call came in February but mum's the word---we were cautioned that Maple Valley would be 'stricken from the list' if even a hint of the story got out to the public or press. Here's how the process went from the chamber side.
In March, Seema Nayya who was doing the research on the story about the 10 Best Towns for Families notified us (City Manager David Johnston, Kevin Patterson from the Tahoma School District and me) that with quite a bit of persuasion, her editors had accepted Maple Valley's nomination for consideration. Well, I was ecstatic! She admitted it had been a long shot as Maple Valley was the only city west of the Rockies to be selected. Now the challenge was to get through the next phase in the process by selecting one family with kids in middle school and/or high school and that had strong community ties that could 'wax poetic' about Maple Valley. With the family profile in hand, Brett & Brenda Habenicht, Lindsey and Alex Habenicht quickly made the top of the list. And as owners of Java!Java! Coffee Company, headquartered in Maple Valley, and long-time Chamber members, it added another perspective of the community.
I made the call and asked Brett if he could come by the Chamber office as it was very, very important that I talk to him. "Really?" he asked. "Did it have to be today? You know we're moving in to the new house this week." I remember saying something like "Too bad. I really need to see you TODAY." Having known Brett for over 30 years and loving all the Habenichts, I was so excited to tell him about the magazine article. So on behalf of the city, the school district, and the chamber, I got to ask Brett and his family to tell the story of Maple Valley on behalf of all of us. But as I explained to Brett, the determining factor for the final selection of the '10 Best Towns' would depend on the interview with the family. (YIKES --- that's a lot to put on a family!) The interview would include how long they had lived in Maple Valley, their favorite things about living here, about the giving spirit of the community, and what the family liked most about the schools, teachers and any story about an outstanding teacher or some special or unique school project.
At this time Seema also requested pictures of the community so I sent pictures of the kayaks running at Landsburg, the trestle trail over the Cedar River, and the view of Lake Wilderness Lodge and Mt. Rainier from the trail. Of particular interest to her was the trail system from Renton to Landsburg, Lake Wilderness Park and the trail around the lake. Again she reiterated not alerting any media as it would 'kill the nomination.'
Well, we know how it turned out. We kept the secret and Brett and Brenda clearly conveyed their positive experiences of their kid's involvement in the Tahoma School District and their love of this community.
Again from the Chamber perspective, the designation of being among the '10 Best Towns For Families,' also supports our contention this is a great place to do business. We have several CEO's with companies that have regional, national, and global markets who choose to locate their company headquarters right here for all the same reasons Family Circle Magazine chose Maple Valley in the initial search. It goes right to our idea of encouraging more resident CEO's like Brett and Brenda to locate their company headquarters here - live here, work here, and play here.