By Harry Welty
Sweat the Small Stuff
tribute to Dorothy Neumann
Neumann, late of the Duluth School Board, died unexpectedly on Monday. The
Elections usually result in incremental changes to an elected body. Dorothyís 1997 election, however, was fueled by the rage of the teacherís union. It resulted in the election of four new board members who were just one vote shy of a majority.
Superintendent, with the concurrence of a unanimous school board, had brought
the Edison Schools to
Sensing impending disaster I encouraged Bob Mars, one of the retiring board members, to reconsider his decision. Because the filing deadline had passed Bobís supporters had to organize a notoriously difficult write-in campaign. Although Bob got a heckuva lot of votes he came up short.
The remaining school board members viewed the four newcomers as a threat. Their suspicion was reciprocated by the new Board members. I saw an opportunity and offered myself as a candidate for Chairman to the new Board members. My pitch was simple. I promised to be fair and work for as much harmony as the strained circumstances would permit. Since I was the only incumbent board member to approach the newcomers I was a shoo-in. My vote plus four others guaranteed my election.
wasnít surprised that my old allies took a dim view of my ambition I was sorry
to discover that they thought I was about to sell out
Nearly two hundred teachers showed up to watch the new board members sworn in. After they were seated our next order of business was to elect a Chairman. The newly elected board members voted for me. My old allies voted against me. I won.
I was so nervous and excited about acting the part of a competent chairman that when both Dorothy and George Balach were nominated for Treasurer I spaced it. As I took my ballot for Treasurer I acted instinctively to show my old allies that I hadnít really abandoned them. I voted for George. It was only after I handed my ballot in to be counted that I realized what I had done Ė or more importantly what I hadnít done. I watched helplessly as the Business Director counted the ballots. I had betrayed my promise to the new board members. Once the election results were announced they would discover that they had just elected a duplicitous liar. When Georgeís win was announced I saw one of the new board members blanch in shock.
I had to endure another excruciating ten minutes of routine business before adjournment. All I could think of was how I could salvage my credibility. Just as I knew I would get five votes for the Chairmanship the new Board members all knew they had five votes to get Dorothy elected. They had fulfilled their part of the bargain. I hadnít.
The moment the meeting ended I rushed over to Dorothy and apologized like there was no tomorrow. All I could do was tell her that I was an idiot because it was true.
Dorothy waved off my apology. ďI always say,Ē the upbeat Neumann told me, ďDonít sweat the small stuff.Ē
We live in a polarized age where common purpose and civility are rare virtues. Dorothy had every reason to hold a grudge against me but she was ruled by better angels. We continued to disagree for most of the next six years. Even so, Dorothy kept giving me home baked brownies and jalapeno jelly rather than a piece of her mind.
When I was defeated last fall Dorothy told me in all sincerity that she had been rooting for me and was sorry to see me go. Now itís my turn. Iíll miss you Dorothy.
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com