HICKMAN — Gina Boe loved growing up on her family's farm outside of Waverly.
"My backyard was a cornfield, and I liked that," she said.
So when Boe moved to Hickman 15 years ago, she felt right at home.
"It's just small town USA," she said. "The trust-your-neighbors kind of thing. There's a sense of being able to let my kids roam a little bit."
Boe, her husband and their four children are one of the many families drawn to Hickman. The community, just an 8-mile drive south from Nebraska 2, was the fastest-growing municipality in the state from 2010-16. Population grew 29.1 percent, reaching 2,139 people in the most recent estimate.
Doug Hanson, Hickman's mayor for the last five years, attributes the rapid growth to the family atmosphere that the blossoming community promotes.
"It's been young growth," Hanson said of Hickman's population gains. The median age in the city is just 31.8 years, with the majority under age 25.
Hanson said that a big reason Hickman is attracting a younger population is because of the Norris School District.
Boe's kids have all gone to Norris, and she fills in as a substitute teacher and works as a music mentor there.
"It's such a unique situation because it's all on one campus," she said. "It's different from other small towns. The school is very much a hub of the community."
Hickman's proximity to Lincoln and the larger job pool there is another perk its residents enjoy. According to the city's 2016 housing study, the majority of Hickman's workforce commutes to Lincoln for jobs. Boe's husband, Perry, drives 25 minutes each day to his job as a marketing director at Cornhusker Bank.
"He doesn't mind it at all," Boe said. "He kind of likes the time to decompress."
And as Hickman grows, the town is adding amenities, including new businesses. U-Stop built its largest-ever convenience store here last year, and fitness centers, boutiques and restaurants have popped up as well.
One of the biggest additions was the community center, a $4.36 million project that opened in May 2017.
The Hickman Multi-Purpose Community Center, located downtown, was built on the lot of the town's old city building. It provides a space for graduation parties, wedding receptions and corporate meetings, among other things. It recently hosted The Black and White Gala, an event to raise funds for a planned aquatic center.
Ranked in a 2011 community survey as one of the most important things Hickman residents would like to see built, the aquatic center would provide yet another source of recreation for Hickman's young families. Already, the city boasts a stellar trail system and green space, promoting what City Administrator Silas Clarke called a good alternative to city living.
"We're trying to set ourselves apart and make it a very livable community," Clarke said. "We want a lot of places and common areas where you can meet your neighbors."
As Hickman's population grows, public services need to grow, too.
That's why city officials have focused on improving and expanding infrastructure and utilities in their one- and six-year plans.
Hanson said they're planning on constructing a new water tower in the next year.
"Part of the challenge is keeping up," the mayor said.
Boe said that one of the challenges she's had to face with the population boom is traffic issues.
"We basically have one two-lane road into town, and that has definitely gotten more congested," she said. "As a parent of teen drivers, that's definitely a concern for me."
That stretch of road, South 68th Street, gained attention last October when a Norris Middle School student was killed in a chain-reaction crash in heavy traffic.
Planned improvements have been detailed in Hickman's 68th Street Traffic Study from June 2017, which suggests that the street be changed to a three-lane section with a center turn-lane, and that a traffic signal or roundabout be added at 68th Street and Hickman Road. County funding will be necessary for any project.
In other areas, Boe said the city has been good about accommodating a growing population.
"Any time a city grows as fast as ours, there's definitely concerns about if they can keep up," she said. "Those concerns are legitimate, but I don't think there's been a time when they've dropped the ball."
Hickman has land for new residential and commercial developments within its limits. Clarke said that he hopes the population keeps growing at a strong rate, and that the city is ready to accommodate if it does.
"We can only build this town once, so let's make it right and make it a livable community," he said. "We're poised for growth."