Tom Crawford named Citizen of the Year

The Staples Motley Area Foundation to bestow the award Oct. 4

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Tom Crawford, a resident of the Staples Motley area for more than three decades, has been named the Citizen of the Year by the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation (SMACF).

The organization, established in 1999, recognizes people, businesses and groups for their efforts in improving the area.

Tom Crawford stands in front of the historic railroad depot in Staples. He is being honored as the Citizen of the Year by the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation for his work to preserve and promote the building.

“Tom was chosen for the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation Citizen of the Year award because of his dedication and care for this community since he came here in 1981,” said Bob Mueller, president of the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation. “From being the local news editor to being dedicated to the local service organizations Tom has made a  big difference in many peoples lives and therefore is very deserving of the Citizen of the Year Award.”

Crawford, the vice president of the Staples Historical Society (SHS), was given the honor of being the Citizen of the Year for his efforts with the preservation and promotion of the train depot, located on Highway 10. He became involved because of the building’s historical significance to the city. It is the last railroad building left in Staples from the height of its transportation days.

Crawford said that prior to 1889, Northern Pacific Railroad had rails from Little Falls to Brainerd. If a train was heading west, it needed to make a sharp turn in Brainerd.

In 1889, the railroad built a cutoff from Little Falls to Staples. At that time, there were barely 100 people in the Staples Township. Its one claim was the Staples Mill.

With the railroad complete, Staples was named a division point where crews made a shift change. Overnight, Staples became a boomtown.

“The depot was owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad until 2008, when the SHS was able to purchase it,” said Crawford. “It was built in 1910 by Northern Pacific Railroad, and up until our ownership, had not been taken care of.”

The building, which has been an Amtrak stop since  1971 when Amtrak was implemented, needs its electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning infrastructure brought up to code.

“The windows on the first floor were renovated by volunteers and local funding,” said Crawford, “along with a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.”

When Highway 10 was moved a block to the south in Staples, the Minnesota Department of Transportation needed to destroy another historical building next to the depot. To compensate the city for the loss, it paid to have the depot reroofed. MnDOT also paid for new pavers along the front walk and a historic structures report which evaluates the building and gives an estimated cost of repair.

In 2009, Crawford was involved in writing an unsuccessful grant through Region 5. He tried again in 2010, and received $404,000 to renovate the old building’s electric, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and redo the bathrooms. The money should be distributed in 2013.

“The SHS has had to do more fundraising to come up with matching funds of $101,000 and the cost of the architect work,” said Crawford. “But we also received another grant of $90,000 through the Legacy Amendment to help us pay for that.”

An architect is needed to ensure the integrity of the building remains, while electric wires and plumbing pipes are installed behind the walls.

One of Crawford’s, and the SMACF’s, goals is to have the second floor of the depot transformed into a Historical Society museum. To make the depot handicapped accessible, an elevator will need to be installed.

The Staples Motley Chamber of Commerce is now located in the depot, taking the space which was originally where train tickets were sold.

Crawford graduated from Dakota State College in Madison, S.D., with a teaching degree. He taught for several yars, then got into the newspaper business. When he retired in 2010, he was the editor of the Staples World.

During his time with the paper, Crawford spearheaded  a Staples World float in the Railroad Days parade, honoring veterans from different wars each year. In 2008, he was a guardian during an honor flight to Washington D.C. with 20 veterans.

He is currently on the board of the SHS, along with involvement with the preservation of the Old Wadena Park, an old fur trader stop on the Crow Wing River. It was also, in 1860, the first site of the village of Wadena.

Crawford is also a member of the Morrison County Planning and Zoning Commission after being an alternate for several years, and chairman of the church council at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cushing.

The SMACF was established in 1999, and has awarded nearly $108,000 in grant funding to area projects. It is a component of the Initiative Foundation, a regional foundation serving Central Minnesota.

Crawford and his wife, Patty, live near Lake Shamineau.

“She put up with my absences when I was working long hours at the paper. Now she puts up with all my meetings. A lot of the work I do for the SHS is done at home and she’s worked hard, making copies, correcting errors and even has helped with grant writing. She’s been a trooper,” he said.

Others given awards this year are Jack Wilson – Lifetime Achievement Award; Huck Holst – Chairman’s Award; Andrew Nelson – Youth of the Year; Staples Dairy Queen – Business of the Year; and Staples Motley Dollars for Scholars – Organization of the Year.

The ceremony will take place at Town’s Edge Restaurant in Staples, Thursday, Oct. 4.