As I looked back at the past year in the Waunakee area the last few weeks, I was often struck by the amount of public participation in local government and happenings in Waunakee.

More people attended village board meetings and, to a degree, school board meetings this year than in the past.

The Tribune also received a hundreds of thoughtful letters from readers on a variety of subjects that likely sparked more interest and discussion throughout the community.

Whether critical or congratulatory, we like these letters for a number of reasons. They allow public officials to mull over their constituents’ ideas, likes and dislikes. At a public listening session, State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein once said she reads letters to the editor for this very reason, and she urged her constituents to write to their local newspapers.

Hearing from readers also helps guide our coverage, giving us a sense of what’s important to folks in the community and what stories and meetings we should cover.

These letters allow for exchanges of ideas, offering different viewpoints, some we may not have considered. Sometimes, we find a different angle to cover.

Finally, they demonstrate engagement in the community and this newspaper’s role in that participation. We strive to encourage a sense of community in the Waunakee area, providing a publication that informs about local news, events and people in the community.

While many Waunakee residents work in Madison or other locations, the hope is that the area will be more than a “bedroom” community, but a place residents call home for shopping, socializing and putting down roots.

For these reasons, we try to publish every single letter we receive, even if we have to edit a bit to conform to our 400-word limit.

So keep those letters coming in the new year. If you see a point we missed in a story, let us and other readers know. If you hear of a proposed development and have an opinion, express it in a letter. Or if you’re feeling appreciative of a local service or individual, spread the word. One simple letter can help shape your community.

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