A search for the perfect place to live leads to ...

John Barrette and his betrothed, Jean Chicoine, are at an important stage of their lives. They can see retirement down the road, though both plan to continue working for the foreseeable future, and they're planning to get married.

They're looking for a place where they can happily spend the rest of their lives together, a place that fits as closely as possible their definition of paradise.

That's why they're moving to Carson City.

That's right. Over the past four years, the Lincoln, Neb., couple searched the country (much of it over the Internet) for a place that held all the qualities they deem important. They were shopping for a place to live.

John, 65, is a seasoned journalist and Jean, a Ph.D., works for the State of Nebraska as an affordable housing specialist. She's past president of a program called NeighborWorks in Lincoln, which gives out low-interest loans to first-time homebuyers, and is on the board of another organization, Rebuilding Lincoln.

Both, in other words, know how to do their research. And when it came to finding a new place to live, they were exhaustive in their search.

First, they defined what they were looking for.

For example, he loves politics, having lived in three state capitals and reported on many elected officials. The arts are important to both of them, but they didn't want to live in a big city (in his experience, he said, life happens when there are anywhere from two to eight people in a room ... you needn't live in a major metro area to find that).

They love the outdoors, especially hiking, biking and camping.

And they knew they wanted to be in the West, preferably, a dry part of the West. They wanted a community with nice housing, with trees and established neighborhoods.

They considered many places ... Silver City and Santa Fe, N.M., for example, were among the cities on their short list with Carson City.

Carson City entered the picture by virtue of a trip John made here decades ago to visit his grandmother, who lived in the area. He recalls falling in love with the place, a tiny town then.

As the two did their research the right choice became more and more clear. Santa Fe has an impressive arts community, but seemed too touristy and too expensive. There's also more crime there than Carson City, especially violent crime.

On the Internet, they searched many sites, including the Appeal, arts organizations, the Legislature. They looked at taxes, development issues, climate and more.

Everything pointed to Carson City.

Not only did it score well compared to the other cities, it's relatively close to the Bay Area, where Jean lived for many years.

They visited Carson City in late-January hoping the reality of the place would live up to their research.

"We were willing to have the community veto it, but it hasn't," John said.

People were friendly. They enjoyed the sunshine. It felt right.

"The town still has the pace of what I call reality," John said.

So they intend to move. First, he must sell his condo - he'll move first as sort of an advance guard - and she her house. Step 1 is almost accomplished, as buyers are closing on his place and he could be here at the end of the month, though he must still deal with the logistics of a move that includes thousands of books and many belongings.

They haven't bought a house here yet, but they did a lot of driving in and around Carson City during their visit and they know it's a good time to buy. They've decided they want to be right in town so they can be a part of the city. They like the character of old houses, so they focused on the city's west side. They'll be looking for a house that's, ideally, in an historic area, a neighborhood where people take pride in the appearance of their homes, where they know their neighbors and care about the people around them.

They intend to be a part of the community, its organizations and a church. They're getting married June 7 at the Episcopal Church in Carson City.

Carson City will soon be home. "Permanently," John stressed.

In last Sunday's Appeal, retiring Carson High School Principal Fred Perdomo, a San Francisco native, referred to Carson City as "the best-kept secret in the U.S.," but we should be happy that, in this case, the secret got out.

You'll know what I mean when you meet John and Jean, hopefully soon, and welcome them to town.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at bginter@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.


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