The year 2008 is ending today in west central Minnesota and the new year 2009 begins at the stroke of midnight tonight.
For many, the new year will be welcomed as a chance to renew and improve following the challenges of 2008.
The span of 2008 was a major year of change -- especially politically and economically.
Politics was a major story throughout the year in west central Minnesota and nationally.
For four days in September, Minnesota was the center of the American political scene with the Republican National Convention. Republicans nominated John McCain for president and the nation was introduced to Gov. Sarah Palin.
The year of politics concluded with November's election where America chose a new course of change by electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And the election continues today throughout Minnesota with the U.S. Senate recount of the Norm Coleman-Al Franken race, which will run into 2009.
West central Minnesota has weathered the national financial meltdown better than other regions. Unemployment figures have not risen nor have housing prices dropped as much, compared to state or national figures. The region has not suffered from the higher peaks and lower valleys other regions have suffered.
Tragedies have been part of 2008 as well. A school bus crash near Cottonwood killed four students. A tornado struck the Willmar area on July 11. A Ridgewater College football player was killed in a stabbing. And Army Sgt. Matthew Kahler of Granite Falls was killed in Afghanistan.
Nationally, America will continue to face the challenges of 2008 into the new year. Our financial and housing industries have collapsed under the weight of a mortgage and credit crises. Our domestic auto industry -- GM, Ford and Chrysler -- are facing serious financial challenges.
The national economic crisis is affecting Minnesota's budget. Governments at the state, county and city levels will face tough decisions as they all strive to balance their budgets in the coming cycles.
Next year will bring many of the same challenges of 2008 -- economic, governmental budget cuts, political change, foreign wars and terrorism threats. Hopefully, in 2009 America will find some solutions.
As 2009 begins, the West Central Tribune wishes you and your family a happy and prosperous year. Celebrate the New Year Eve tonight safely, so you can enjoy Thursday's football bowl games and the new year.