Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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August 16, 2018

Sullivan’s Salvos     8/21/18

In this edition:

*Goodbye Tracey!
*Senator Dvorsky Retirement
*Lone Tree Fall Festival
*Did You Know?

*Goodbye Tracey!
         Unfortunately, we must say goodbye to Tracey Achenbach, who has spent the past ten years as the Executive Director of the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County.

         Tracey accepted a job with the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) in Cedar Rapids, a group of which Johnson County is a member. Tracey will continue to live in Iowa City, so at least we have that!

         Tracey is an absolute joy, and I will really miss her. It is also important to recognize all of her many accomplishments! The attitudes on affordable housing have changed dramatically over the past decade. We have made great strides, and Tracey deserves much of the credit.

*Senator Dvorsky Retirement
Note: To really get the full flavor of this piece, please put “To Sir With Love” on repeat in the background. OK.

As you all know, Senator Dvorsky is retiring from the Iowa Senate after 38 years in public office. He announced this almost a year ago, so I have been putting off writing this piece for quite some time. 

For one, I thought, “I’ll avoid the glut of people honoring him in May.” Check. For two, I thought, “He is still a Senator until Zach is sworn in.” True. But as you can see, I am running out of ways to put this off.

         I think this is hard because it is personal and it runs deep. I first met Bob in the late 80s, and he had already been elected to the Iowa House. (A friend of mine worked for Rich Varn and brought me to a few things.) So I never knew Bob when he wasn’t in the Iowa Legislature. Remember, this was the late 80s – 30 years ago! For my whole involvement in Johnson County politics – and it is a long one now – Bob has been front and center.

         And I guess that is the thing. So much has changed over 30 years… I was a recent college grad when I met Bob. Now I am a grandfather. Literally dozens of Legislators have come and gone. We have had scores of County Supervisors and School Board members. City Councilors? Hundreds. But through it all, there is Bob. 

         Any laws that passed over the last 30 years, good and bad alike, you discussed them with Bob. Whatever you wanted to have funded, you discussed it with Bob. From November 1, 1991, to the ’93 floods, to 9/11/01, to the ’08 floods… Bob was there as each one was discussed.

         That is on the elected side of things. On the political side, turnover is even greater. Johnson County is by nature a transient place, and people come and go. You get volunteers who throw themselves into local politics for 3-4 years, then leave, never to be seen again. It is VERY uncommon for someone to be around 30 years. Those who do so are Hall of Famers! And through it all, there is Bob.

         From Harkin for President in ’92, to Vilsack for Governor in ’98, to Obama in ’08 and ‘12… Bob was always there. We weren’t always on the same side in primaries and caucuses – but we were always on the same side in the end.

         And that is why the greatness of Bob Dvorsky is difficult to sum up. It is simple, cumulative, and subtle. You cannot judge Michelangelo on one day’s work. It just wouldn’t look like much. You need to stand back, and realize that over several years, he has created a masterpiece.

         It is like going to a ballgame, seeing a batter go 1-3, and saying, “Yeah, that is OK, I guess.” Then you realize that same batter does that every night, all year long. And does that year after year for decades. Suddenly you wake up one day and realize that guy has over 3000 hits.

         I could go on with the analogies, but you get the idea. There are doors to knock, and Bob will knock them. The teachers have an issue, and Bob visits the school. People have problems with Medicaid, and Bob will listen. He just methodically does the work. And this perseverance gets results. 

I suppose there is a lesson in there for us all, but it is not what we want to hear. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic pill. You just need to work very hard for a very long time. 

It is not just longevity, though. Bob is truly a good person. I am a social worker by trade. And I can usually tell if a person genuinely cares about something or is simply patronizing you. Honestly – Bob always cared. At his core, he is for the little guy. It almost seems there is a part of him that never fully realized he was a powerful State Senator; he was just a kid from Coralville and University High.

Another thing – and this may not sound like much, so bear with me – In all these years, I can never recall Bob telling a lie. Face it – we all change our stories over the years. We all remember things differently. And in some cases, people just lie. And yes, politicians might do it a bit more than the rest of the population. But not Bob. He has always been honest with me, even when I didn’t want to hear it. Bob is an honest man, plain and simple.

Bob also has an amazing brain. I cannot believe the amount of knowledge he has, and the things he retains. This is obviously critical when it comes to discussing legislation, especially Appropriations. You can go to Bob with the most obscure questions – “Who was Don Avenson’s Press Secretary when he ran for Governor?” “What was in that spot before West Music?” “Who was Iowa’s quarterback in 1963?” Bob can answer every question of that sort. It is a gift, and it has served him well.

Then there is his sense of humor. No matter the setting, Bob will always point out something funny. Sometimes it is even a little inappropriate. Let’s face it – for 4 years of his Legislative career, things were great. For 24 years, they were OK, but it was a struggle. For 4 years, it was horrible. You have to have a sense of humor to survive circumstances like that! 

         It is hard for me to imagine Bob not being around. He has always been there. I probably see Bob three times per week or more at various community events. The idea of him not being there will require some adjustments.

         Congratulations on your retirement, Senator. Thank you for all you have done over the years. You have been a friend and a role model. I have learned a lot from you, and you have my never-ending respect and admiration. To Sir With Love. Best wishes.

*Lone Tree Fall Festival
         The Lone Tree Fall Festival is August 24 - 25 in Lone Tree. This event is a great opportunity to share some good times with the fine folks of Johnson County’s “panhandle”!

*DID YOU KNOW? Lone Tree derives its name from a giant elmthat grew nearby in the pioneer era and served as a prairie landmark. This elm stood on a slight hill south of town. Local legend has it that the tree was so large, walruses grazed under its expansive branches. It escaped prairie fires because of the lack of grass around the tree. The tree succumbed to the Dutch Elm disease of the 1960s, although valiant efforts were made to save it. The wood from the tree was used to make a sign denoting the tree's home on the hill southeast of the city limits.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website- 

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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