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Forest City community mourns loss of Mayor 'Barney' Ruiter

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The city of Forest City is mourning the loss of Mayor Byron (Barney) Ruiter, 72. City Administrator Daisy Huffman issued a statement on his July 18 death.

“Barney Ruiter, Forest City mayor for six years and street department for 43 years, had an incredible impact on our city,” Huffman said. “As mayor, he was a tireless community champion who continuously went above and beyond for people and local organizations. Since first being elected to mayor in 2015, his passion for serving others and improving quality of life for all citizens will not be forgotten. Our deepest condolences go to the Ruiter family and all those he touched throughout his remarkable life. We will never forget his contributions to making Forest City the best it can be.”

The city council held an abbreviated regular meeting July 18 in the wake of the loss, with council member Ron Holland serving as mayor pro tempore.

“I’ve never had to run a meeting before because he made every meeting there was,” Holland said. “I really respect what he did for the city, state, and country as well.”

Council member and former Forest City police office and chief Dan Davis said he and Ruiter both started working for the city in 1971.

“I especially am going to miss Barney,” Davis said. “We went to school together. I’ve got a long history with Barney. He’s going to be missed.”

In talking about how well everything went during the city’s July 15-16 Puckerbrush Days celebration, Holland acknowledged that “it kind of put a damper on it to lose our leader. He was a great person who is going to be missed.”

City Attorney Steve Bakke said it was difficult to do the research related to the loss of his “friend” on how the city and council might proceed.

Bakke informed the council members that a vacancy for elected office can be filled either by an appointment, if made within 60 days of July 18, or through holding a special election. Bakke said that if the council should choose a special election, it could be done as part of the general election in November.

According to Dave Kingland, Heritage Park board member and a community economic development leader, Ruiter collapsed while cooking pancakes at the Legion breakfast on Saturday morning.

"He was a great guy, a great leader, and it is a real loss,” Kingland said.

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