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North Iowa's Dr. Dunker, who delivered 10,000 babies, remembered as being kind, innovative

MASON CITY | Dr. Bruce Dunker is being remembered as a kind, pleasant man who delivered 10,000 babies in his long career.

Dunker, a longtime Mason City obstetrician, died Sunday, Jan. 28, at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa.

His memorial service is 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at First Presbyterian Church. Visitation is 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at Major Erickson Funeral Home.


"I remember Bruce to be a true gentleman — kind and gracious to his staff and partners," said Dr. Michael Faust with Mercy Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinic.

"He was well-read in his specialty, ready to lend a hand or knowledge to me when I was a younger partner, but also humbly accepting of help when he requested it from me.

"After retirement, he always had a kind greeting for me, and took time to remember my family with his words."

Dr. Bruce Trimble knew Dunker for 44 years. "We both came to Mason City in 1973," Trimble said. "We found we had some unusual things in common. We both have the same first two names — Richard Bruce — and we both went by 'Bruce'."

Trimble mentioned another unusual connection. "He delivered his son one night and delivered our daughter the next night," he said.

"He was a very pleasant man," Trimble said. "He had a reassuring kind of persona that comforted his patients."

Trimble said counting the time Dunker was in the military, he is credited with delivering 10,000 babies in his career.

Dr. John Justin, a pediatrician, was on the staff with Dunker at the Park Clinic downtown.

"He was very pleasant," Justin said. "The patients liked him. He contributed a lot of new things to the clinic. He was one of the younger ones. The younger you are, the more new ideas and new techniques you have."

Justin said Dunker played a key role when North Iowa Medical Center, now the Mercy West Campus site, opened. "When it opened, Dr. Dunker was the main person to set up the obstetrics department which was a very important job," Justin said.

Dr. Walt Bate first got to know Dunker when Bate was an emergency room doctor. He said ER doctors often have to call in other doctors to treat specific conditions, sometimes in the middle of the night. Dunker always responded respectfully, he said.

"Bruce was always cooperative and supportive. I thoroughly enjoyed him. I don't remember a time when he wasn't pleasant, always happy to see you," Bate said.

Dr. Gene Kuehn said Dunker was a friendly doctor whose patients really liked him. "When I first got to know him, I invited him to go on a camping trip to the Boundary Waters and that's when we really got to know each other better.

"He was a very friendly man and he was very well-read professionally and in Christian literature," said Kuehn.

In 1999, Dunker, who had been retired for only three months, and his wife, Judy, a nurse, accepted a medical mission to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Together, they provided diagnostic and primary care for people living in extreme poverty, including some who lived in boxcars.

In a 2000 Globe Gazette interview after their return to the U.S., Dunker talked about the challenges of constantly treating people with diarrhea and also handing out hundreds of bars of Dial soap.

It was difficult work but Dunker saw it as a mission.

"We'd go back," he said in the interview. "We're already talking about it." 

4 of 5 Mason City administrator finalists ended similar jobs under fire

MASON CITY | Four of the five finalists for Mason City administrator have either been fired or asked to leave from previous jobs, while one was also the subject of criminal investigation into city business.

City officials announced the finalists in a news release Friday, saying the recruitment and vetting process “produced an impressive field of candidates" — 30 applications from 12 states. 

The search was led by Mark Jackson, city administrator in Story City, and Brent Hinson, a former Garner city administrator currently working in Washington, Iowa.

The Mason City Council hired Jackson and Hinson for $6,600 in December. Typical search firm fees for similar work are $20,000 to $30,000, according to city officials. 

When the Globe Gazette investigated the candidates and asked Mason City personnel director Perry Buffington about their backgrounds Friday afternoon, Buffington said the city did not have a comment, and said it would be inappropriate to judge the candidates publicly before interviews.

Jackson and Hinson could not be reached by phone for comment Friday afternoon.

The candidates will be in Mason City for interviews Feb. 16 and 17, as well as a community reception 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Salsbury Room at the MacNider Art Museum, 303 Second St. S.E.

They are:


Al Roder

Roder, who has 21 years of city and county experience, is currently city manager in Independence, a position he has held since 2014.

Previous jobs include county administrator for Harper County, Kansas, and Becker County, Minnesota, as well as city administrator for Norfolk, Nebraska; Northfield, Minnesota and Denison.

He has a master’s degree in public administrator from the University of Nebraska, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Moorhead State University and is an ICMA-credentialed manager.

In July 2008, the Star Tribune reported Roder, then city administrator in Northfield, agreed to drop a demand for severance pay and agree not to sue the city, only if Mayor Lee Lansing apologized to him for “behavior that he said fueled his decision to leave.”

Roder, who left after a little over two years in Northfield for the job in Norfolk, wrote in a resignation letter he had “endured a frivolous lawsuit, micromanagement, and baseless accusations of wrongdoing” from Lansing, the Star Tribune said.

An investigator found Lansing abused his mayoral office by attempting to influence Roder and other city officials to further his family’s business interest, the Star Tribune reported. Lansing filed — and later dropped — a lawsuit against Roder, the city and three council members for discussions about his family’s property.  

Roder was also linked in criminal investigation of City Hall business involving Lansing, the Star Tribune reported. 

In September 2012, the Northfield News reported the criminal investigation had closed, and that the county attorney declined to file charges against Roder.

Roder received a final severance payment of $25,000 as a result, according to Northfield News.

He submitted resignation from a city administrator position in Norfolk, Nebraska, in September 2010, the Associated Press reported. The resignation was effective in December 2010. 

The City Council had met in a closed session in September to discuss Mayor Sue Fuchtman’s request to fire Roder.

Fuchtman later said in an open meeting Roder didn’t do anything wrong and there was no just cause to fire him. No further details were disclosed.

Roder received a $75,000 severance package with health benefits for his voluntary resignation.

In 2017, Roder was a finalist for a city administrator position in Spencer, but was not hired.


Cole O’Donnell 

O’Donnell, who has 23 years of city administration experience, most recently worked as city manager in Dixon, Illinois, from 2016 to 2017.

He previously worked as city administrator in East Moline, Illinois; Algona and Renville, Minnesota.

O’Donnell has a master’s degree in public administration, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Iowa State University and is an ICMA-credentialed manager.

O’Donnell was fired from his position in Dixon by a split council vote, Sauk Valley Media reported in August 2017.

The publication said O’Donnell left his office on paid leave in July 2017 and received a severance package of five months’ salary, about $53,542 and health benefits.

Speaking on behalf of the council, Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said several issues led to O’Donnell’s termination — council conversations not being communicated to department heads, and that O’Donnell did not sell his home in East Moline and establish his principal residence in Dixon, as stipulated by his contract, Sauk Valley Media reported.  


Joseph Helfenberger 

Helfenberger, who has 32 years of city administration experience, most recently worked as city administrator in St. Cloud, Florida, from 2015 to 2017.

He previously worked as city administrator in Ottumwa and village administrator for the cities of Hobart, Pulaski, North Fond du Lac, and Necedah, Wisconsin. 

Helfenberger earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin.

In June 2017, a St. Cloud City council member made a motion to terminate Helfenberger for allegedly spending more than $100,000 without council consent, Spectrum News 13 reported.

The money had been used to pay delinquent taxes on a property the city owned, the station reported.

Council members said they wanted to hold Helfenberger responsible for the finance director’s actions, as he was responsible for overseeing the position, the station reported. The finance director resigned the following week.

The motion to terminate Helfenberger did not pass. Helfenberger, who had been in the position about two years, resigned voluntarily the following month, according to the station.


Jeffrey Pederson 

Pederson, who has over 32 years of city administration experience, started working as city manager in Paducah, Kentucky, in 2010.

He previously worked as city administrator in Grand Island, Nebraska; Dodge City, Kansas; Vermillion, South Dakota; Onawa and Eagle Grove.

He has a master’s degree in public administration and bachelor of science degree from the University of South Dakota.

Pederson was asked to resign from his position in Paducah in November 2017, the Kentucky New Era reported. Mayor Brandi Harless had cited a need for a “different set of leadership skills” in asking for his resignation.

He will collect more than $225,000 after his resignation, the publication said.

Pederson was initially scheduled to resign in January, but was asked to delay his resignation until May 15, the West Kentucky Star reported in December 2017.

Officials decided to extend his contract through the budget season as the city deals with a multimillion dollar pension issue, according to the West Kentucky Star.


Randy Lansing 

Lansing, who has 23 years of city administration experience, is city manager in Garner, a position he has held since 2011.

He previous worked as city administrator in Cascade and East Dubuque.

He has a master’s degree in public policy and bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Northern Iowa, and is a member of the Iowa City/County Managers Association.

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Globe Gazette news, photo coverage wins 17 awards in Iowa journalism contests

The Globe Gazette won 17 awards Friday in two contests honoring Iowa's best journalism from 2017. 

The newspaper won seven awards, four of which were first place, in the Iowa Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest. The Globe Gazette competed against other mid-size daily publications with a print circulation under 10,000. 

"These awards are proof that we have some of the most talented journalists and photographers in the state of Iowa, and I couldn't be more proud of the work we've done over the past year," Globe Gazette Editor David Mayberry said. "As our industry continues to evolve and change, the mission of serving our readers with pertinent, relevant, engaging and timely news has not changed.

"We will continue to tell the best stories, be the best watchdogs and be the best media neighbors for everyone in North Iowa," Mayberry said. 

INA awards included: 

• Best Front Page: first place -- staff. Two of the covers included coverage of the crash that killed five young Mason City residents in April 2017. "The photos were compelling and at the same time appropriate, given the sensitivity of the news topic," a judge wrote. 

• Coverage of Education: first place -- News Editor Ashley Miller, Reporter Courtney Fiorini, Reporter Mary Pieper and former Globe Gazette employees Molly Montag, Tom Thoma and Meredith Colias. 

• Coverage of Court/Crime: first place -- Montag, Fiorini, Miller and Reporter John Skipper. A judge commented that the Globe Gazette did a "nice job going beyond the breaking news and digging for details from court and police records" and said reporters' writing was "compelling, clear and crisp."

• Breaking News: first place -- Montag. A judge wrote that Montag's "continuous updates throughout the day and the culminating story shows the reporter's dedication and understanding of how to cover breaking news."

Photographer Chris Zoeller won a total of 10 awards between the two contests. He received three photo awards from INA: second place breaking news, third place sports and third place news feature.

Judges praised Zoeller for his timing and use of lines. 

"Nice intensity in the firefighter's face," a judge wrote about an image from a fire at a Mason City apartment complex in December 2017. "I like that it's a different shot of responding to a fire. Just the right amount of ladder showing."

The Globe Gazette won 10 awards from Iowa Association Press Media Editors, where it competed against mid-size daily newspapers with print circulations between 6,000 and 19,999.

Zoeller won seven photo awards, two of which were first place for feature ("Sock Hop") and general news ("Laid to Rest").

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Globe Gazette photographer Chris Zoeller received a first-place Iowa Associated Press Managing Editors Award Friday for this photo, which was taken during the Johnny Rogers History of Rock and Roll Show at the Winter Dance Party in February 2017. 

Zoeller also received second-place awards for general news ("Mourning a Tragedy"), sports feature ("Defeated") and spot news ("Apartment Fire") photos, as well as third place for sports action ("Stopped Short") and sports feature ("Friends in Competition") photos. 

Miller's coverage of Mason City school officials scrutinizing administrative pay raises earned second place in investigative reporting. 

Montag's reporting of a crash that killed five young Mason City residents placed third in continuing news coverage. Montag also received third place in spot news reporting for her initial coverage of the crash. 

Fourteen daily newspapers submitted 517 entries in the Iowa APME contest, featuring news and sports stories, features, editorials, columns, graphics and photos. 

The INA contest included dozens of editorial, photo and design categories. The Wisconsin Newspaper Association judged entries, which were divided by circulation class.