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Gothenburg included in ‘Eden’ list of best small cities

Nice downtown, friendliness are some attributes

Gothenburg fits one researcher’s idea of an unspoiled paradise.

With its clean and tidy downtown, plus people who care about each other, a retired geography and civics teacher ranks the town 48th in his list “In Search of Eden: America’s Best Small Cities.”

Charles Anderson, of Winter Park, FL, compiled a list of 50 cities with populations up to 45,000.

Seward is ranked No. 8 and is the only other Nebraska town listed on a revised 2013 list of great small cities.

Over the past 50 years, Anderson has visited the cities he ranked and issued his first list in 2012.

He has visited Gothenburg twice, most recently during the summer of 2011 and said he liked the Scandinavian atmosphere, friendliness and strong community spirit.

Fitting in Anderson’s 12 criteria for selection is the town’s location in what he describes as “Nebraska’s banana belt.”

“The climate is milder than what you’d expect for a city this far north,” he explained. “You have more sunshine than the eastern part of the state.”

In addition to weather, other criteria includes that:

the ideal city is generally prosperous and progressive with no significant slum sections.

it has attractive outdoor recreation areas within easy reach and an aesthetically pleasing town setting.

the city should have an identity of its own and is not a bedroom community for a larger community.

it has a connecting interstate highway that permits frequent visits and can closely link larger-city jobs and entertainment and special attractions such as zoos and museums.

the community has access to an adequately equipped and staffed hospital.

the city has good primary and secondary schools. Anderson says this is inherent to progressive and prosperous towns.

the cost of living, especially housing, is affordable.

employment opportunities exist.

the political “state” surrounding the area is considered since regressive laws, passed by a less affluent state, can have a crippling effect upon more progressive towns.

security of property and personal safety are key. Crime rates tend to be lower in small cities but crime rate reporting can be different and selective from region to region.

Anderson, who is 73, started traveling and researching the nation’s best cities a half century ago after reading a book about the 50 best cities in America.

At the time, he intended to create an updated book until a 1989 gas explosion killed his mother and his aspirations.

Twelve years ago, he picked up where he left off and finished his top 50 list about four months ago.

While compiling the list, his goals changed.

“In the beginning, I was interested in helping people find a nice place to live and thought a book would bring me attention and money,” Anderson said.

However, as the Owosso, MI, native sends the list to newspapers in his selected communities, Anderson has discovered satisfaction from making people in those towns feel good about themselves.

And rather than wanting to know the criteria for being chosen, he said newspaper writers and communities want to know more about their own towns.

“It’s not what I expected,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he wants people in the selected towns to feel good about where they live, especially during these times when it’s not so easy to feel that way.

He added that the order of the top 50 towns doesn’t mean the highest-ranking ones are his favorites.

“Some on the list appeal to me personally, like Gothenburg,” Anderson said. “A college would have propelled it up on the list.”

Anderson said he liked visiting Gothenburg.

“It’s a neat place to raise a family with a strong feeling of community and pride.”

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