Andrea Severson & Josh Christianson

Lovin' the Place I'm In
Rural lifestyle offers opportunity and contentment

By Linda Crandall, McCook Community Foundation Fund Writer

The lure of opportunity and wide-open spaces enticed Andrea Severson and her husband Josh Christianson to cross half a continent to locate in Southwest Nebraska.

"It's so nice to have space to breathe," the 28-year-old natural resource specialist said.

The couple moved from the Washington D.C. area, where Josh was stationed with the U.S. Army and Andrea worked as a naturalist for the City of Alexandria, Va. When Josh found himself facing an early retirement, the couple had to make some decisions.

"We liked the city," Andrea said. "It's so diverse; we never got bored. There's always something to learn and do, but we were ready for a more relaxed way of life."

With Josh's parents still in their hometown of Vernal, Utah, and Andrea's in Rapid City, S.D., Andrea's dad encouraged them to consider Nebraska. "My dad actually started his federal career at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge, so I'm kind of following in his footsteps in a way," Andrea said.

When she was offered a position with the Bureau of Reclamation, she was excited about the professional and personal opportunities waiting in the Cornhusker state.

"The Nebraska-Kansas Area Office serves a huge area," she said. "I love being able to visit the reservoirs, to travel to so many different places in Nebraska and Kansas and to work with such a wide variety of people."

The one caveat: What would Josh, a former helicopter avionics specialist, who was half-way through a degree in fish and wildlife biology, do in McCook?

After considering some of the opportunities to use his GI Bill at McCook Community College or the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) in Curtis, Josh enrolled in the NCTA Veterinary Technology program.

Last summer during a clinic visit for one of the couple's pets, Josh asked Dr. Wayne (Watkins) if he could intern at Red Willow Animal Clinic before starting the Vet Tech program. After completion of his internship, Dr. Wayne offered Josh the opportunity to work at the practice part-time while attending school.

Andrea's favorite aspect of McCook since arriving in 2012 is the community itself. "We came from a town twice its size, but McCook has twice as much to do," she said. "We are meeting so many really great people, so genuinely nice and friendly."

They especially enjoy going to the YMCA, attending Live at the Bieroc shows and discovering unique and special restaurants and businesses like Loop Brewery, Homespun and Knowlen and Yates.

Andrea was introduced to one of McCook's annual events when her best friend came from Denver to attend the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival in June. With her undergraduate degree in anthropology, Andrea cited the Wild West Bus Ride to Camp Duke Alexis as a highlight, and also enjoyed this year's headlining performers. "I had seen The Steel Wheels previously when they were here at Live at the Bieroc and loved them," she said. "In D.C. you would spend easily $100 for that quality of entertainment. Nebraska has so much to offer, and it is really affordable."

Andrea and Josh have purchased a home and are appreciating the fruits (and veggies) of their new space. "It's so great to be able to buy a house with land," she said. "We love to garden and to have room for the dogs to run."

She hasn't minded trading her 45- to 90-minute commutes for driving eight minutes across town. "When I moved here, it was so great to suddenly have so much more time in my day," she said. "I didn't realize how much of my life I was missing sitting in my car for hours."

For Andrea and Josh, the trek across the country has meant more time to enjoy trips to the lakes, more space to breathe in the vast prairie, and more opportunity to savor the friendliness of rural Nebraska.

The McCook Community Foundation Fund is providing a series of short articles featuring individuals who are "returners" or "newcomers" to Southwest Nebraska. If you would like to suggest someone for a future article, please submit the name and contact information to Peggy Been, email: .

Inspiring investment in the quality of life for the people of Southwest Nebraska McCook Community Foundation Fund, an Affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation