Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Endings, Beginnings, and Who Knows What...

Earlier this week, I hope that you had a chance to read this post, a press release announcing that my dear friend David Dunmyer will not be seeking a second term on the Queen Anne's County Board of Commissioners.  This is the story of how I came to help Dave write that press release.

I met Dave about four years ago. In fact, now that I think about it, it might have been exactly four years ago this week, as the ironies and coincidences of life are to have it. We were both in the process of engaging in a fight to stave off the construction of a State Department training facility just a mile or so from where Dave lives. I was fighting because of what I wanted this new place for me and Kim to continue being, rural and close. Dave was fighting for something so much more important.

I did a lot of writing about the issue here at the blog, traded a lot of barbs with various people on social media (God that was fun), attended a lot of meetings, and lobbied folks in Washington DC against the facility. There were certainly a couple of people more involved than me, but not many more involved than Dave. He was a relentless, no holds barred champion for the people of Ruthsburg.

Kim and I had moved to Centreville in the late fall of 2009, and were neck-deep in the facility fight by January. I can say that there is no better way to find friends in a new place than to stand next to them during a good old fashioned dust up. I still count Mike and Tina Naumann, Mike Weddell, Jay Falstad, Bonnie Roschy, and of course, Dave and Rhonda Dunmyer, as good friends that I might have never met if not for FASTC. 

I got a call from Dave one day in the spring of 2010; he knew that my racket was politics, and he was thinking about running for county commissioner. I didn't know much about the county board of commissioners, nor about the political vagaries of the county, but I knew that Dave was a guy worth helping, so I signed on to the effort as a volunteer campaign manager. As Kim can attest, the spring, summer, and fall of 2010, my life was Dunmyer for Commissioner. Together, Dave and I redefined the way you run for commissioner in Queen Anne's County. We worked every weekend, knocking on thousands of doors over the course of the campaign. We worked nights, we worked mornings, we ate breakfast at Batter Up (but apparently not enough times to keep the place in business). We answered more questionnaires then now seems possible. As Theodore Roosevelt would have wanted it, we spent ourselves in a worthwhile effort.

I can say that there is no better way to learn your way around a county, then to help someone run for county commissioner.

Election night 2010 was a supremely weird event. Dave had won his first ever campaign as a candidate, and I had won my first ever campaign as a full-fledged campaign manager. I had counted votes at the Board of Elections until late in the night, and knew that while Dave had won, he and his slow-growth principles would be in the minority 3-2. So while it was a great night, it was also a night with big question marks about the future. We were surprised at the outcome of the election and that Dave would be in the minority; we sensed that it would be a frustrating four years.

It was a cold and rainy Friday near the end of my paternity leave in October 2013 and Dave and I were scheduled to have lunch in Centreville to talk about his ensuing reelection campaign. After we ordered, Dave got to the real special of the day: admitting that he did not think he was going to run again. That, after pouring himself into being a commissioner for four long years, he had had enough, emotionally, intellectually, financially. The job of commissioner, done right, done the way Dave did it, is certainly a full-time job, yet its wages, the wrong side of $20k a year, are hardly enough to call a living. The unavoidable responsibilities of life could not be avoided for four more years.

I let him know that I supported him either way, that I would be there to run another campaign, or that I could help with the drafting of a statement that he would not seek reelection. I warned him that, if he decided to not run for reelection, a lot of people would try to guilt him in to changing his mind. I promised to not be one of those people. But as we traded drafts of the release back and forth, I kept letting him know it was not too late to change his mind. As evidenced by the earlier post, there was no change in his mind on this one.

I don't know how many citizens of Queen Anne's County realize just how great of a commissioner they had in Dave Dunmyer. Here's a guy who literally put more free time into his role as commissioner than he could well afford, and all in the service of making progress on things he thought were important, like cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and keeping our county a great place to live. When he was stymied by the myopia and recalcitrance of the status quo, he blazed his own path, meeting with US senators, governors, the EPA administrator, cabinet secretaries. When major progress couldn't be made, Dave made incremental progress. He took on issues, big and small, with a doggedness, a heart, and courage that you won't find in many people, let alone politicians, and as a result, Dave has grown into a leader in the field of conservation policy. His advice will be sought by the doers and the thinkers long after the other four members of this board have melded back into the fabric of whatever it is that they do when they aren't sitting in the Liberty Building.  

There is a discussion that needs to happen, about the emotional and intellectual toll of seeking and serving in public offices that keeps good people from running, or in the case of Dunmyer, from running again. There is the constant divisiveness, perhaps pronounced by the still small-town feel of Queen Anne's County, that provides no refuge from sarcasm and negativity. When we, and I think it is incredibly important that we realize that we all do play a role in this, make elected offices attractive only to the retrogrades and the argumentative, then only the retrograde and the argumentative will we get. Our collective need to get the last word, whether in a comment section, a social media forum, a town hall meeting, a radio show, is poisoning the public arena. Negativity is self-perpetuating.  

Dave Dunmyer will be replaced on the Board of Commissioners, and there might be much to say about that race in the days ahead right here on this blog. But I want to offer my most sincere gratitude to my friend Dave for the sacrifices he has made over the past four years to the people of our home county, to the Chesapeake Bay, and in defense of the notion that good people can hold office, and accomplish good things, without every having to raise their voice.


Merle & Ed said...

Thank you for this. We applaud Dave for his hard work to make Queen Annes County continue to be a good place to live and especially for his respect for the comprehensive plan and the many folks who put hours into defining what the future of the County needs to look like. When others disregarded the will of the people in favor of their own personal interests, Dave continued to represent the interests of those who supported and elected him. We know Dave will continue to work on the things that really matter, we wish him well and are glad to be able to count him as our friend.

Robert Mueller said...

I did not know, or know of, Dave before the electioneering and the election itself, but it soon was clear that, unlike many newly elected officials, he did not see his election as an open door to paths different from those he had touted during the campaign. He demonstrated vision, dedication, and conscience that too infrequently is seen. Even when I found myself of a view different from one Dave was articulating (which was not often), the conscientiousness and clear-thinking analysis generated sincere respect and trust that we had, in Dave, a true leader, pointing the way to the future most of us say we want, but too few of us actually ante up to achieve. WELL DONE, Dave -- and our most sincere gratitude and respect!!

Albert Todd said...

I must say I was shocked when I read this blog, not that a political office was to see turnover, that happens all the time, but because I had just had the chance to see the quality of Dave's passion and commitment over the last 9 months or so, and I was suddenly learning there might be one less leader with that kind of integrity and intellect to depend on. I do not live in Queen Anne's County and so Dave was not my representative, but I had the opportunity to work with him through my work at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and have come to rely on his abilities to speak with conviction on the topic of the role of local government in the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Always pragmatic, always hopeful, and always willing to work on finding common ground for a solution, these are qualities that are so often missing from politics. In the short time I have had the chance to work with Dave, I have seen his dedication and the time he has put into this work. I will miss his positive contribution to the dialogue on the bay as an elected official. I hope QA County Council continues to do as well. Dave, I wish you the best as a private citizen who I know will continue to demonstrate what citizen stewardship is all about. Thanks and fair winds!

Margo French said...

I too want to thank Dave for his years of service. Politics and the pressures and abuse one has to take as a politician, for little pay, often isn't worth it. In this county, I have found that county government officials are unduly influenced by people who are only interested in making money for themselves and they know how to influence county officials to promote their destructive agendas. I admire Dave's ability to reject this influence and follow his own beliefs. Too many people run for Commissioner for two reasons: To use the position as a stepping stone to higher office, or, to take advantage of the good ol' boy politics of the Eastern Shore and make much more money than their $20,000 per year salary offers them. Dave was honorable and shunned this influence. Those who do have a very frustrating and difficult time achieving their goals on this Commission. I hope the citizens will elect a person of integrity and character to replace Dave. Someone who doesn't get involved in "Pay to Play" politics. I wish him much happiness, good health and success in the future and hope he will continue to help protect the Eastern Shore from the threats that it is facing. I also campaigned steadily for him door to door and was thrilled when he won against tough odds.

Glenn Halfpap said...

Victory lap, even though the race will never be finished. So proud to know Dave for so long. Thanks for having his back Steve!