I like people who stand on their own, who have a counterpoint view. I've been both impressed and mystified by Kathleen Anne. Through her Facebook groups ''Everything Cortland'' and ''Delphi/GM Packard Electric Employees - Warren, Ohio'' she projects an unfailing positive outlook about Warren in spite of a prevailing negative cloud that seems to make its home here.
I've wondered why, when other young people are leaving in droves, she remains. So I invited her for a chat over breakfast and here's what I learned ...
As it turns out, Kathleen's roots go deep into the history represented by local landmarks where her parents took her as a child. They taught her about the John Stark Edwards House, The Butler Institute of American Art, The Harriet Taylor Upton House.
James Packard and his family were of particular interest to Kathleen. The depth of their commitment to bringing the auto industry to Warren impressed her.
She learned that James Packard was more than just responsible for the production of luxury cars; he also designed very complicated watches. His most intricate design had 24 complications. A complication is any feature that goes beyond the simple display of hours, minutes and seconds.
In Kathleen's eyes, Packard's best complication was the celestial chart depicting the constellations of stars that ride in the sky over his Warren home. Who knew?
Kathleen's family also traveled to The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village as well as nearly every home belonging to a U.S. president from Ohio. What she saw increased her depth of understanding regarding how important our area has been in the growth of our nation. She feels an affinity for the area's past; it gives her an ability to believe in its future.
I was impressed by her knowledge and the enthusiasm invested in sharing it with me.
While I could appreciate what she said, still I challenged her by asking about the invisible cloud that seems to rest over the area, the residue left by steel mills long gone.
''I see so many people constantly looking back toward what was, stuck in that long ago era of the Steel Valley,'' I said. ''Doesn't that make you want to escape, at least a little bit? Isn't that why young people leave to get out from under that heaviness?''
She said she'd heard this before. Friends accuse her of being 'stuck.' But she doesn't see it that way.
Kathleen says there are those who think shiny and new is better, and they move to find it. However, there are also those, like herself, who prefer maintaining a daily connection to their history.
She likes the shared commonality and understanding of what's gone before us. She likes that there are people trying to reinvent themselves right here; they have courage to stick around to see what can happen. She enjoys supporting local small business owners.
She challenges me back, ''What can you find somewhere else that you can't find here?''
''Where I live, there are smaller mom and pop restaurants,'' she says. ''The town is quaint. I like seeing people I know when I go to the grocery store. I like the feeling that I live in a place that is rich in history, a place that played a huge part in the growth of America. I wouldn't trade that for anything.''
Kathleen believes that even in the face of adversity, we're still full of possibility. In the early part of the 20th century, a lot of what fueled growth in the rest of the country began here. Why shouldn't we expect that to happen again?
I shoot back ''But what about the people who are still looking backward, waiting for the old days to rise again?''
''Yes, there are those who are nostalgic for what was. Maybe they even hold a secret desire to see the steel industry rise again. But there are even more people looking toward the future with an expectation about what can happen here,'' was her response.
I asked her, ''If a person is going to stay here, is it fair to say that you need to be willing to prospect your way through the maze of living and job seeking to get what you want?''
''Life here has obviously changed no longer can you leave high school and go get a factory job. And college doesn't necessarily guarantee you a job - not here, not anywhere,'' she stated. ''You need skills, experience, a solid work ethic, ambition, imagination. Sometimes you have to be creative in how and where you use your talents.
''Can we make the same money that our parents did? Probably not. It's up to the current generation to make something of what's left here. If you're willing to take a risk, you can be part of those who are mounting the comeback. Doing so will force you to make decisions about what's really important. For me, that's the adventure,'' she said.
Kathleen supports her belief in the area by connecting people on her Facebook groups. It's funny to note that the people who check in the most are those who have moved away. Kathleen provides her groups with substantive stories and links to articles that can be read in full. She is a good steward of the information she provides.
Kathleen Anne's hope for the future? She'd really like to see businesses come here and use some of the empty buildings, restore life to the blighted landscape. She hopes that people will dig deeper and look more fully into our local history; it's what gives us depth, interest and value.
And she hopes that, like our predecessors, we will return the region to a new, revitalized prominence as a leader of change in American business. I couldn't agree with her more.
Jagunic is a Cortland resident.