John Dietz, the mayor of Elk River, has been named Newsmaker of the Year for 2011, a distinction that’s open to all who made news this past year.
The list of candidates for 2011 included Cory Daniel Bell, who was sentenced to 345 months in prison for raping a woman and murdering her soul. He also put fright into the hearts of many in the community for two years while he was on the loose after that 2006 crime and before he assaulted Keith Glenn of Elk River with a knife in 2008.
Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, actually made it on the final list of newsmakers this year. She was the first woman ever selected to lead the Senate majority. But she also fell from grace in scandal for an apparent relationship with a male staffer.
I say these things to point out that the title of Newsmaker of the Year is not an award. It’s a recognition of who made the most news or the most significant news in a given year.
I don’t say it to take anything away from Mayor Dietz. There’s no question he has done a lot of good for the community, but that’s not say he didn’t have opposition to some of his positions.
I don’t sense anyone is lining up to take issue with the mayor’s efforts to publicly recognize volunteers or get a community-wide chapter of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon up and running for those servicemen and -women and their families before, during and after deployments. People might, however, take issue with some of Dietz’ stands in this past year’s budgeting process for the city of Elk River.
We at the Star News felt it’s important to note this was not part of the discussion in selecting Dietz as the Newsmaker of the Year. We have felt for some time it would be important to make this type of statement, without casting dispersions on any one newsmaker.
Previous recipients have walked away thinking this is an incredible honor — one worthy of adding to a resume. We just want people to know the award is not to be confused with the tenor of Man of the Year awards that are sometimes given out.
Bell would not have been considered if that was the case. To include elected officials on our list would require the judging far more political than we would care to make it.
Under our umbrella of Newsmaker of the Year, Dietz would have still been in contention if all — or none — of his proposals went into effect. Dietz made news in 2011, and that’s what we are recognizing.
He provided leadership to a council that was faced with grim fiscal realities.
He boldly suggested the city of Elk River do away with its Energy City program, except for the Project Conserve component.
Energy City survived.
He boldly challenged the notion that the life expectancy of squad cars should be set at an arbitrary number of years. He wants to know what the humble opinions of mechanics are first.
This is being attempted.
He bounced Ron Touchette from the Elk River Economic Development Authority for reasons that are not entirely clear to all. He used his opportunity to appoint someone from industry after meeting up with Brian Provo on a tour of Elk River industrial manufacturing firms.
This decision Mayor Dietz had control over.
He’s tapping volunteers more and more to get the work of the community done in difficult economic times.
And he pushed really hard to hold the line on property taxes. He fell short of his own stated goals.
These were bold moves, and the mayor is making his mark.
That’s kind of what you can expect from Mayor Dietz. He’s a straightforward man. He tells you how he sees it, and doesn’t leave wiggle room for confusion.
That’s a trait reporters like. It’s easier to work with someone when you know where they stand. It’s also easier to defend something you consider important when you know it’s on the table.
The discussion of Energy City, when it was on the chopping block was some of the most passionate and compelling testimony to date for the program. Dietz’ suggestion to consider its end might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Energy City.
Many believe Energy City has had a profound impact on our community and the outside world; however, its grip will need to reach a greater percentage of the community — residential, commercial and industrial — if its to remain viable and alive in these lean times.
Project Conserve needs to be rolled out to the business and commercial sector, and it will be.
There needs to be even greater buy-in for Energy City, which Elk River has gotten a lot of mileage from so far. A merged business and energy expo could provide some great opportunities.
I would encourage the supporters of Energy City to rally and be ready for the next budget battle. If done well, any desire to cut it loose could dissipate.
No matter what the outcome is in the future, it will only help support our decision to name Elk River Mayor John Dietz as Newsmaker of the Year. He’s a newsmaker who gets the discussion rolling on important matters. — Jim Boyle, editor