Watertown Prepares for President Obama's Visit
President Obama arrives in Watertown Friday to give the commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute. Residents are hoping to make the most of his visit, and capitalize on the national attention.
Watertown City Council member Jon Solum says everywhere in town, people are talking about the President’s visit, and sharing stories about Secret Service sightings.
“You hear that they’ve seen, people have seen vans driving around with people in, and all these dark suits roaming around town and the earpieces, and they wondered if this person was with this, you know, or they point them out, or I’ve seen this guy in the store and wondered who he’s with,” Solum says.
To prepare for the President’s visit city officials doubled up on street cleaning efforts, workers with the State Department of Transportation helped stripe the streets, and volunteers picked up garbage along the roads. Veterans groups put up flags along the highways.
Those involved in economic development have been busy too. They’ve launched a new initiative called Watertown Works, showcasing the community for visitors and the media. Karen Witt is the Executive Director of the Watertown Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“We couldn’t have bought this kind of advertising for our city,” Witt says. “So I think that’s what’s just so amazing with this. Nationally, news is going to focus on Watertown, South Dakota, and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t even know there was a Watertown, South Dakota. So I think that’s the big thing for us is to really be out there in the national news.”
While the President’s visit makes the ceremony especially high profile, Lake Area Technical Institute President Mike Cartney says officials from D.C. are doing a good job of keeping the focus on the graduates.
“You know, but at the same time, you know, it adds that level of pressure, it adds, as you may have guessed, media coverage,” Cartney says. “And so, taking account for all of those things in the ceremony is something that we don’t have the expertise on but the people from D.C. certainly do so they’ve been great from that perspective to work with.”
Cartney says the significance of the event might not sink in until it’s all over.