HUSA president Melanie Westbrook, far left, board member John Shaw and Denise Potter listen intently as members of the public offer ideas for marketing and tourism during a recent meeting. Photo by Glenda Svendsen

HUSA serves a vital role

Many people in our community would share that A Safe and Sane Halloween, A Magical Country Christmas, The Farmers Market and the Wine Walks are some of their favorite Susanville events.

Would you believe that a team of only a dozen people is responsible for the logistics and promoting of these events? What if I told you more than 2,000 people attend Uptown trick or treating and as many as 4,000 residents enjoy the Magical Country Christmas?

You might expect a larger panel right? While it is true that more than 6,000 people attend these events collectively and HUSA is also responsible for The Farmer’s Market and The Wine Walk events, the actual number of people serving on the HUSA board during the last 18 months is just four.

These four individuals are President Melanie Westbrook, Treasurer Penny Artz, Denise Potter and John Shaw. If those names sound familiar, it is probably because HUSA is just one of the dozens of organizations, community resources and/or locally owned and operated businesses these individuals commit their time and energy to.

And while this all sounds very glamorous, there are many factors that require additional efforts. At a recent meeting one issue addressed was the possibility of clarifying or expanding on the mission statement.

David Teeter weighed in on this topic: “ HUSA is a necessary and useful voice for Uptown businesses and has reaped multiple benefits for our town. The mission statement has stood as is in its entirety for decades and has served our community well.”

A recent meeting was attended by nearly a dozen individuals —some of whom expressed ideas for additional tasks that could be pursued. While some very valid points were made and exciting ideas shared, it was unclear whether those suggestions fit into the current mission statement for HUSA.

The suggestion of additional responsibilities assigned to the panel of four seemed reminiscent of another historical event tasking a group to make bricks without hay.

Even though this group of committed individuals has managed to bring events which have become holiday traditions for so many, the behind-the- scenes efforts have, at times been complicated by other factors.

Westbrook said, “HUSA has struggled over the past few years. As many have heard, the city council in summer 2019 decided to stop collecting the HUSA assessment.”

“This did not disband the HUSA board or the HUSA district. The city of Susanville funded the 2019-2020 HUSA budget. HUSA strives to continue to bring events to the Uptown district, but events that contribute to the community as a whole and to increase business growth in the Uptown area.

“The events are aimed to promote the small business owners that have survived in our Uptown Area. HUSA is there to help bring awareness to our Historic Uptown district and to attempt to maintain that area. The HUSA board works closely with other community agencies to achieve this — Lassen Land and Trails Trust, the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Susanville itself, to name a few. It is uncertain if the city will be able to maintain funding the HUSA budget, as noted in their recent budget issues.”

According to the HUSA board, for our community to continue to have events such as Safe and Sane Halloween, Magical Country Christmas, and the Farmer’s Market, we need the community’s vested interest.

“The board is currently looking to fill five board seats. The board meets every second Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m. in city council chambers. They encourage all of the community to attend to keep this board and its events alive.”

Some of the suggestions from various members of the public included a passport community app, posters advertising local business strategically placed throughout the community and rotated for advantageous exposure and other marketing measures.

Volunteer fireman Nick McBride put forth suggestions for “networking business associations and diversifying for the common good.”

When approached for a summary quote, Kerri Cobb offered, “I would like to see money put back into tangible things to improve the Uptown District. It sounds like more events than sound investments are being done. $27,000 is a lot of money to have a Farmer’s Market during the summer, a Christmas event and wine walks which business owners supply the wine for.”

Teeter added, “In the last five years the Historic Uptown Susanville Association has through Wine Walks and Farmer’s Markets tripled the number of events in the Uptown every year. We have also improved areas in the district with the remodeled Pancera Plaza. So especially in these tough economic times for rural economies, the city of Susanville and the merchants of Uptown need to find a way to continue the great traditions of our historical past while transitioning into a new economy.”