By the Echo Press Editorial Board

Alexandria’s “secret” isn’t much of a secret anymore: It’s pretty great living here.

Minnesota Monthly magazine reached that conclusion in naming Alexandria as the Best Minnesota Town on Oct. 1.

For the last three years, the publication’s editorial team has sought the answer to “which town most embodies the spirit of Minnesota.” Bemidji won the first year, followed by White Bear Lake and now it’s Alexandria’s turn to bask in the spotlight.

Granted, the process of earning the title isn’t entirely objective. Cities enter themselves into the contest and people from all over the state vote as many as 10 times a day, using their email address.

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But it wasn’t just a popularity contest.

To begin with, an official city or representative from the town must submit an entry. A representative is defined as a full-time staff member working in a leadership capacity of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, mayor’s office, or other elected official of the town.

In Alexandria’s case, the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce submitted the entry, and deserves a thumbs up for putting in the work that helped the city earn the designation. Explore Alexandria Tourism and the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission also played a role by providing top-notch photos and a video that showcased the beauty of our lakes and parks, and people who thoroughly enjoy living here.

In the nomination, the chamber answered a variety of questions posed by the magazine’s editorial team, such as what as what makes Alexandria stand out and why people come here to live or vacation.

Alexandria’s nomination put the city in the top 10 list. Those 10 cities then competed in a popular vote contest. Each Top 10 town’s entry application was evaluated based upon the award of a possible 100 points — 50 points averaged from a panel and 50 points based upon the outcome of a popular vote. The vote total was calculated as a percentage of total votes per town capita as measured in 2010 U.S. Census data and were converted into a point value, which vaulted Alexandria to the top of the list.

“It’s a beautiful year-round destination with a rich history and a bright future,” said Reed Fischer, senior editor of Minnesota Monthly.

The magazine’s editorial team was impressed with Alexandria’s entry and cited three things that stood out – its state-of-the-art Alexandria Area High School, which demonstrates the community’s commitment to education and the future; a “Cards for Kids” effort started by an Alexandria fifth-grader, Emersyn Harris, in 2011 that brought smiles to more than 60,000 children battling cancer; and something that showed the community’s quirky fun side — the chance to swallow a minnow at The Corral Saloon and Eatery.

Besides the word-of-mouth buzz the contest gives Alexandria, there are other benefits as well. The community will be spotlighted in an editorial feature in 2020 March/April edition of Minnesota Monthly, a splash of positive publicity valued at more than $50,000.

The contest’s conclusion jibes with recent trends the newspaper has reported in recent months. The Alexandria area continues to demonstrate healthy growth, especially in residential construction.

A total of 90 new single-family homes were built in the city and Alexandria Township last year, along with 141 multi-family apartment units. This compares to 55 new homes that were built in 2017, an 18 percent increase. And when compared to 2016’s 33 homes, it’s nearly double. The 65 new homes that were built in the city last year marks the highest total in at least a decade.

So the title of Best Minnesota Town isn’t just public relations fluff. More and more people are discovering that when it comes to small town living with big city amenities, Alexandria stands at the top.