Quad-Cities area communities are saying goodbye to more than 100 years of local government experience.|
Of course, those replacing longtime mayors, aldermen and village board members in places like Moline, Rock Island, Silvis, Aledo, Port Byron, Colona and Coal Valley this week and next will welcome new ideas and perspectives to the job.
But those communities will feel their loss. As Coal Valley administrator Alan Wilson said of outgoing Mayor Stan Engstrom, "You can't replace 40 years of expertise overnight. Stan will be missed." All of those outgoing leaders will, whether they left of their own volition or voters decided to replace them.
Such civic mindedness is all too rare these days.
Indeed, in the minds of too many, politics -- and its partner, public service -- register on the trustworthiness scale somewhere between journalist and door-to-door salesman. That is evident, not only in the number of Americans who stay away from the polls, but in the dearth of candidates for a host of local offices. For example, there only was one candidate in the April 9 election to fill the mayor's job in too many area cities and villages. A host of school board seats also will be filled by appointment because no one ran for the jobs.
Yet, without people willing to step up to fill those roles, our cities, counties, villages and schools would grind to a halt. The vast majority of these folks do such things, not for any monetary reward, but because they are called to do so.
Take Coal Valley, where Mayor Engstrom is marking the end of a nearly four-decade public service career -- 19 as village board trustee and 20 as mayor. Such civic commitment, we're pleased to note, is not exactly rare in that growing village. Indeed, he is being replaced by Emil Maslanka, who demonstrated a strong commitment to public service by winning a rare write-in campaign against a well-known and active sitting trustee, Rick Lasek.
As the old mayor leaves, he will be honored by having the village park in the neighborhood where he grew up renamed Stanley B. Engstrom Park. "I appreciate it, but I didn't do this for recognition," he said. "I didn't feel I deserved anything special. I just want to slide off into the sunset."
He isn't the only one making a quiet exit. Colona Mayor Danny McDaniel presided over his last meeting Monday, marking the end of 38 years as mayor or alderman of the Colona-Green Rock community. Among his many accomplishments is helping to guide the merger of those two villages, no easy task.
Silvis Mayor William Fox turned the gavel over to Mayor Tom Conrad on Tuesday. He had served -- alongside wife, Barb Fox, former city clerk and alderman -- for a decade as alderman and eight years as mayor.
Don Welvaert holds the reins in Moline for just one more week. He'll step away after a dozen years as mayor and a term as alderman at large when Mayor-Elect Scott Raes is sworn in. Mayor Welvaert leaves behind a city that is vibrant and growing despite a tough national economy.
Those are just some of the local leaders who are saying goodbye. There are many others in area villages, towns, townships and schools boards, so many space will not allow us to list them all here.
As they leave, we urge you to take a moment and join us in saluting their public service. They know, as John Adams did, that "To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do."