Bucktown Pride, a phrase I’ve heard in earnest from Honor Credit Union’s Stacey Martin for years, is running rampant in Michigan’s Great Southwest, even beyond the borders of the newly christened “Nicest Place in America.” That new moniker for the Berrien County City of Buchanan is spreading cheer, smiles, and high fives all across the region.
Patricia Moore, the Podiatric Physician who also serves as Mayor of the City of Buchanan, is extremely proud of her hometown—and with good reason. Celebrated author Mitch Albom recently announced on the TODAY Show that Reader’s Digest has named Buchanan the “Nicest Place in America” and a “shining example of American unity in the face of our toughest challenges at a time of national political division.” Highlighted in the Reader’s Digest story was the consensus that Buchanan “would not be defeated by the virus and united to fight racial injustice.”
From Buchanan’s long-running traditions to honor its veterans, to its continued support for racial and social justice, the community goes out of its way to let each person know that they are appreciated and respected. Buchanan Police Chief Tim Ganus, who worked with local activist Deejra Lee to lead a peace march through the city, was quick to point out that “It took everybody. It took everyone coming together. Even though I may have a uniform on and others don’t, we can still believe in the same thing, and we do believe in the same thing. We agreed on peace. We agreed on justice. We were just on the same page with everybody, and that is why we walked together.”
When hearing about the news that her city had been named the ‘Nicest Place in America,’ Mayor Moore expressed her gratitude for the designation, saying “It’s wonderful to see that what we have always felt to be special about our city is recognized by a national publication as well respected as the Reader’s Digest. Opportunities abound in the nicest place around!” That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Pro Tem Dale Toerne, who says, “This is why my wife and I retired here—we saw the friendliness and pleasant surroundings here in Buchanan.”
City Commissioner Sean Denison drew upon the local pride in the area schools’ team mascot, as well as the City’s official logo ‘Life is Better Here,” saying that “the recognition from the Reader’s Digest as the ‘Nicest Place in America’ confirms what we all have known all along. Life truly is better here. The greatest thing the City of Buchanan has going for it is its people. Today, they should all be proud to be a ‘Buck.’”
Other City Commissioners have also expressed their gratitude for the honor, and their sincere thanks to the citizens of Buchanan, who really are the true essence of nice. Commissioner Cameron Downey says that “all of the credit goes to a great community and the people who live here and love it so much.” Commissioner Mark Weedon agreed, saying that “Buchanan is the ‘Nicest Place in America’ because generations of families designed it that way. Families return to raise their families with the desire to experience the same nostalgia as their parents and grandparents.”
Retiring City Manager Bill Marx was also very proud of Buchanan’s residents, saying “This is exciting, and I am so happy that the true tone of the community has been captured by this recognition. We can all be proud. There were 1,177 story submissions that were considered by Reader’s Digest from many, many, communities. This is a special recognition and confirmation of something we all knew already!”
Newly-appointed City Manager Heather Grace is eager to spread the news about Buchanan’s recent designation, saying, “The title of ‘Nicest Place in America’ is so richly deserved here. I only just moved to the area a few weeks ago, and I can honestly say that the warm welcome I have received is as genuine as it gets. It might sound corny, but when everyone you meet has a mega-watt smile that is matched with that impossible-to-fake sparkle in their eyes, you just get that feeling deep in your soul of knowing that you are where you are meant to be. With this spotlight on our community, the true beauty of Buchanan’s best resource—its people—will be what serves to draw in new interest and new investment in the region.”
Larry Money, of the American Legion Ralph Rumbaugh Post 51, says he was “terribly excited to hear the news that the Veterans Banner Program instituted by the American Legion took off and had such a great response and became a community rallying point.” Mickey Frost, who helped highlight the importance of the American Legion’s banner project, summed up the overall sentiment of the community well: “I am very proud of the story we have been blessed to live.”
Dave Van Dyke, who had written the initial letter to Reader’s Digest that resulted in Buchanan’s submission in the ‘Nicest Place in America’ contest, considered the exciting news that Buchanan had won be “a wonderful, bright silver lining to a very dark cloud.” With 2020 being a year of general tumult in more ways than most of us could have ever imagined, Mr. Van Dyke’s words ring especially true.