A Place where Tara Bitzan can just "be"

 Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

As the executive director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and the former editor of Alexandria’s newspaper, the Echo Press, Tara Bitzan knows why people stay in west central Minnesota. She did—in fact, she now lives on the same land she grew up on in Moe Township, Douglas County.

After graduating from Brandon High School, Tara attended Minnesota State University—Moorhead where she majored in mass communications and English. She also interned with Alexandria’s newspaper, the Echo Press. Her internship turned into a full-time job offer. Over the next 25 years, Tara worked her way up until she became editor of the paper. Along the way, she got married, moved back onto the farm she grew up on, and started her family. Earlier this year, Tara made a major career change by accepting the position with the Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

So why would someone like Tara want to stay in the same place she grew up? “Everything,” she says, explaining that Alexandria has everything she needs in regards to shopping and services while maintaining the close-knit community of a small town where she can get to know the people she works with. “I like doing business with people but also going to church or community functions with those same people,” she says. Those close relationships, both professional and personal, have helped her embrace a calmer life than she would have in a larger city.

To Tara, living wide open has a literal meaning. Living 12 miles away from the place you work could cause a stressful commute every day if you lived in a big city, but she considers the drive from her house to Alexandria to be “12 wide-open, stress-free miles of beautiful countryside and little traffic.” Tara enjoyed being able to drive her daughters to and from school as they were growing up, because those 12 miles twice a day allowed her to spend quality time with her children. Living where she does also allows her plenty of places to just “be,” like in a hammock, on the dock, around the shop or in the garden or woods.

When you have spent most of your life in west central Minnesota, it becomes hard to imagine life anywhere else. The draw of quiet nights, pristine lakes, scenic drives and abundant opportunity keep those who love the area here. As with Tara, once you’ve been here long enough, you probably “can’t imagine living anything but wide open.”

Steve Henning