Editor’s note: The following is the last in a series of eight guest op-eds from leaders of the Forward Greater Cheyenne initiative that have been published each Tuesday in the WTE since Jan. 22.

Public drinking, gambling and prostitution; shootings, stabbings and thefts. Does this sound like Cheyenne? Nah, not today, but it certainly was how things were around here in the 1800s.

Populated by characters that will be revered for generations, this city rose out of the ground as one of those shady “Hell on Wheels” railroad towns. There’s a mystique and unapologetic truth to those roots.

But what about the other story that's often overlooked? The story in which Cheyenne appeared so fast, we were dubbed the “Magic City of the Plains”? The story of a rough and rowdy city that, over time, gradually shifted its shape into a social and cultural hub for the area?

That’s the story I dig: The story of the everyday magicians who bettered our community because they were motivated to make a better life for themselves and others.

Back in the day, people viewed Cheyenne, Wyoming, as this magical place to go for entertainment, opportunity and the chance at a better life.

So, how about today? Are we still viewed as this magical place with endless opportunities? As locals, do we think of Cheyenne as a social and cultural centerpiece?

If so, rock on … and keep on truckin’! If not ... why not? And what’s holding us up? Are we waiting for more magicians and shapeshifters to show up on the train? Waiting for others to be the change agents? How long do we plan to wait for them to arrive?

As a Cheyenne native and a locally focused entrepreneur, I feel like I’ve had a fairly decent grasp on the pulse of our community for quite a few years. Now, more than ever, I hear this common sentiment that “Cheyenne is on the verge of something transformational.”

To that sentiment, I say: The transformation has already begun. The magicians and shapeshifters have already arrived.

There is so much more going on here than many of us hear about, and I, for one, have been kind of blown away by all that’s happening. For example, there’s cool companies firing up, schools inspiring the next generation, health care improving, and arts and music organizations/venues bringing it.

I’ve seen residents and businesses contributing a ton of money into nonprofits, infrastructure and community initiatives, and I’ve seen those investments making real impact.

But I’ve also seen those who have been left behind. Those who have been judged or questioned for their positive efforts. Those who have gotten involved and gotten so burnt out they want to give up and leave. I’ve seen those wanting to get involved, but not knowing where to start. And I’ve seen those who need help end up failing, simply because they couldn’t get help.

Since being invited to Forward Greater Cheyenne, I’ve worked to approach my particular initiative – “Enhance community pride by expanding opportunities to positively impact our community” – by listening with open ears, then beginning to vision an approach.

Ultimately, the goal for my initiative is to expand the Cheyenne Professional Network and launch Shape Cheyenne: a series of challenges to Cheyenne businesses and residents, coordinated over a week-long period focused on giving, influencing and shaping the future of the community.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m in, and I truly believe this is a great initiative. But the disruptive side of my soul has questions: Why should community pride be limited to a week-long period? Is pride only held by professionals? Do non-professionals not count? And finally … what does “community” pride ultimately mean when that week-long period is over?

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I know I’m not interested in putting up barriers.

My approach is one of inclusivity; one in which anyone in our community who believes in this community can have a voice, as well as be able to offer a hand in helping shape this community’s future.

Ultimately, my personal goal within this initiative is to find, connect and communicate the awesome things happening in our community. I want to give people an opportunity to celebrate with like-minded others, offer a megaphone to those without a voice, and create a place for people to find opportunities to give and get involved within a “no strings attached” mindset.

Therefore, I ask for this from Laramie County residents: If you feel like you were, are or want to become a shapeshifter or magician that has impact on this community, shoot me your info at ShapeCheyenne.com.

I am looking to build a network of open-minded people who will be the driving force behind the future voice and shape of Cheyenne. We may not be as rough and rowdy as we used to be, but we’re still the Magic City of the Plains … and it’s time to shift the shape of our community for the future.

Chad Willett is the managing director of West Edge Collective and the strategy coordinator for Forward Greater Cheyenne’s Community Pride, Engagement and Attachment initiative. Email: chad@westedge.us.

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