Thank goodness for 89 people

Thumbs Up: A big thumbs up to all those who took the time to complete the 2020 Census. Those who think they’re just a meaningless voice when it comes to voting, participating in the census or doing their civic duty in other matters, should remember this number: 89. That’s the razor-thin margin that Minnesota had over New York for the 435th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, based on the 2020 Census. Minnesota had 5,709,752 residents as of April 1, 2020 – 89 more or 0.0016% of its population to put it ahead of New York for the final seat in the House. Because of that, Minnesota will be able to retain all eight of its House seats. Your voice does matter.

Restaurant comments

Thumbs Down: Our story last week about a new Mexican restaurant that will be moving into the former Tennessee Roadhouse in Alexandria drew a lot of attention, especially on our Facebook page. More than 175 comments were posted, many of them saying what Alexandria really “needs” is this, or that, or the other thing. Many seemed to suggest the City of Alexandria is somehow at fault for not getting the restaurant they’d prefer. Thankfully, some commenters set them straight and pointed out that the building had been on the market for a long time for anyone to buy and make a go of it. Alexandria City Council member Andrew Wiener summed up the situation perfectly with this post: “People commenting seem to think the ‘city’ or the mysterious ‘they’ somehow decides what businesses start up in this area. There's not some magical panel that says ‘there shall be a Mexican restaurant.’ A person or group of people have an idea and put their money where their mouth is. Maybe it succeeds, maybe it fails. But at least those folks are willing to put their time and money on the line.”

Unexpected kindness, respect

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Thumbs Up: An Alexandria couple who were at one of popular restaurants in Alexandria on March 25 were treated to an unexpected act of kindness. “As we were leaving, a gentleman named Keith came up to us and said that he wanted to pay for our meal,” the wife said. “He put some money in my hand and said to pass it on. My husband was wearing his Korean War veterans baseball cap and Keith thanked him for his service. This is a reminder for all of us to pass it on!”

Empowering employees to help others

Thumbs Up: Douglas County is fortunate to have businesses that give generously to important causes throughout the community, time after time after time. And they come up with creative ways to do it. Consider Bell Bank and its Pay It Forward program, launched in 2018 as a way to empower its employees to help others, wherever they see the greatest need. Each year, every full-time employee at all Bell Bank locations nationwide receives $1,000 and every part-time employee $500 to give as they choose to people in need and causes they care about. So far, that’s more than 12 years and more than $18 million in grassroots giving across all Bell Bank locations. Alexandria’s Bell Bank location alone has given more than $250,000 to the local community. Just some of their good deeds: Anonymously paying off layaway balances at Walmart; paying off all past due school lunches at a local elementary school; paying for bills at grocery store and pharmacy check-outs; pooling money to help people in Alexandria dealing with difficult diagnosis, situations or tragedies; fully funding a scholarship program for providing athletic equipment to participants in Alexandria youth leagues; customer appreciation lunches that nearly 700 people have attended (pre-COVID); and “Santa Night” where guests come to the bank for pictures, games, and treats for families.”

If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.