With the national news media focused on the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, recession recovery and future economic worries, it is always nice to print positive things going on in local communities.

Of all our stories lately about little triumphs and progress being made and efforts under way to improve and enhance our little slice of the world, perhaps the most exciting news has originated from the city of Echo of late.

Earlier this fall, Echo officials announced the city won the America in Bloom Award for Small Cities with a population less than 4,000 for 2013. Because this was the third time the city has received that award, it also netted a Circle of Champions Award.

This award, while laudable and noteworthy, is only small piece of what is going on in Echo. More noteworthy, in my opinion, is all the hard work that city officials and community leaders have put in to garner such an award.

Echo City Administrator Diane Berry and community leaders, such as Lloyd and Diane Piercy — owners of Sno Road Winery — deserve credit for all their efforts in improving upon the city’s assets and making sure the city is something to be desired and celebrated.

The efforts reach beyond the city’s visual appeal, however. Officials and community leaders are also reaching into the city’s past to propel the city into the future by placing a great emphasis on Echo’s heritage and culture, as demonstrated by Berry’s effort to gather information on the Portuguese immigrants who settled in Echo.

Leaders are also actively completing an Oregon Heritage All-Star Communities Program application, which would improve the city’s eligibility for numerous grants in the future. To receive an All-Star Community designation, however, the city must meet a number of criteria, a lot involving historic preservation. Through their previous efforts, city officials have already met a number of the criteria and are contemplating a number of other ideas to qualify for the program.

Everyone in Echo should feel fortunate there are people so passionate about the city and working hard to make sure everyone knows what current residents are already aware of — that Echo is a great place to live. Kudos to everyone.

— Jessica Keller is the editor of the Hermiston Herald. She can be reached at jkeller@hermistonherald.com

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