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Mason City High School hurdlers Reid Johnson, Dante Arndt-Sublett, and Christian Rodriguez pose on the track at Mohawk Field.

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Walter Mondale was once a paper boy for the Globe Gazette
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Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday. He was 93.

The death of the former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general was announced in a statement from his family. No cause was cited.

Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

His own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. Mondale’s selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket, but his declaration that he would raise taxes helped define the race.

Mondale's presidential campaign trail included a stop in January at the Moose Lodge in Mason City, where he spoke to a crowd of over 300 about a month out from the Iowa caucuses. Having been a newspaper deliverer for the Globe Gazette as a boy while growing up in Elmore, Minn., three current carriers for the Globe Gazette handed out "special newspapers" to welcome him during that 1984 visit. 

On Election Day, he carried only his home state and the District of Columbia. The electoral vote was 525-13 for Reagan — the biggest landslide in the Electoral College since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon in 1936. (Sen. George McGovern got 17 electoral votes in his 1972 defeat, winning Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.)

“I did my best,” Mondale said the day after the election, and blamed no one but himself.

“I think you know I’ve never really warmed up to television,” he said. “In fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me.”

Years later, Mondale said his campaign message had proven to be the right one.

“History has vindicated me that we would have to raise taxes,” he said. “It was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct.”

In 2002, state and national Democrats looked to Mondale when Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before Election Day. Mondale agreed to stand in for Wellstone, and early polls showed him with a lead over the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman.

But the 53-year-old Coleman, emphasizing his youth and vigor, out-hustled the then-74-year-old Mondale in an intense six-day campaign. Mondale was also hurt by a partisan memorial service for Wellstone, in which thousands of Democrats booed Republican politicians in attendance. One speaker pleaded: “We are begging you to help us win this election for Paul Wellstone.”

Polls showed the service put off independents and cost Mondale votes. Coleman won by 3 percentage points.

“The eulogizers were the ones hurt the most,” Mondale said after the election. “It doesn’t justify it, but we all make mistakes. Can’t we now find it in our hearts to forgive them and go on?”

It was a particularly bitter defeat for Mondale, who even after his loss to Reagan had taken solace in his perfect record in Minnesota.

“One of the things I’m most proud of,” he said in 1987, “is that not once in my public career did I ever lose an election in Minnesota.”

Years after the 2002 defeat, Mondale returned to the Senate to stand beside Democrat Al Franken in 2009 when he was sworn in to replace Coleman after a drawn-out recount and court battle.

Mondale started his career in Washington in 1964, when he was appointed to the Senate to replace Humphrey, who had resigned to become vice president. Mondale was elected to a full six-year term with about 54% of the vote in 1966, although Democrats lost the governorship and suffered other election setbacks. In 1972, Mondale won another Senate term with nearly 57% of the vote.

His Senate career was marked by advocacy of social issues such as education, housing, migrant workers and child nutrition. Like Humphrey, he was an outspoken supporter of civil rights.

Mondale tested the waters for a presidential bid in 1974 but ultimately decided against it. “Basically I found I did not have the overwhelming desire to be president, which is essential for the kind of campaign that is required,” he said in November 1974.

In 1976, Carter chose Mondale as No. 2 on his ticket and went on to unseat Gerald Ford.

As vice president, Mondale had a close relationship with Carter. He was the first vice president to occupy an office in the White House, rather than in a building across the street. Mondale traveled extensively on Carter’s behalf, and advised him on domestic and foreign affairs.

While he lacked Humphrey’s charisma, Mondale had a droll sense of humor.

When he dropped out of the 1976 presidential sweepstakes, he said, “I don’t want to spend the next two years in Holiday Inns.”

Reminded of that shortly before he was picked as Carter’s running mate, Mondale said, “I’ve checked and found that they’re all redecorated, and they’re marvelous places to stay.”

Mondale never backed away from his liberal principles.

“I think that the country more than ever needs progressive values,” Mondale said in 1989.

That year, Democrats tried to persuade him to challenge Minnesota GOP Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, but he decided against making the race, saying it was time to make way for a new generation.

That paved the way for Wellstone to win the Democratic nomination, and go on to upset Boschwitz. 

The son of a Methodist minister and a music teacher, Walter Frederick Mondale was born Jan. 5, 1928, in tiny Ceylon, Minnesota, and grew up in several small southern Minnesota towns.

He was only 20 when he served as a congressional district manager for Humphrey’s successful Senate campaign in 1948. His education, interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army, culminated with a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1956.

Mondale began a law practice in Minneapolis and ran the successful 1958 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Orville Freeman, who appointed Mondale state attorney general in 1960. Mondale was elected attorney general in the fall of 1960 and was reelected in 1962.

As attorney general, Mondale moved quickly into civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection cases. He was the first Minnesota attorney general to make consumer protection a campaign issue.

After his White House years, Mondale served from 1993-96 as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan, fighting for U.S. access to markets ranging from cars to cellular phones.

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Mason City Council recognizes two local residents for "shining example" set during recent rescue effort
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Soon enough, Mason City residents will have a new mode of transportation around town.

Tuesday night, the Mason City Council unanimously approved a "memo of understanding" with the Bird Rides company to bring the app-based, stand-up electric scooter to the area.

According to the council packet, that memo would protect the city in case of liability and would last for one year. As for usage, riders would be able to operate the scooters on city streets, in alleys and on bike paths. The company itself would be entirely responsible for the vehicles.

"There are certain things in local government that have a lot of traction, scooters are quickly rising up the list of things people love to hate," City Administrator Aaron Burnett said to the council during the meeting. "The reality is the problems are more perceived problems than actual problems."

Lisa Grouette / LISA GROUETTE, Globe Gazette 

Mason City Hall

Bird scooters arriving wouldn't be the town's first foray with with app-based personal transportation.

In 2018, the KoloniShare bike app went live in Mason City and featured 12 bikes placed at three racks across town. However, the equipment has faced issues with administration, tech and the amount of usage. At least one difference between the two is that Bird is a much larger company than Koloni with scooters in North America, Europe and the Middle East.

During discussion on the item, Fourth Ward Councilmember John Jaszewski asked when the scooters might arrive in Mason City. Director of Development Services Steven Van Steenhuyse responded: "I would not be surprised that we could be seeing them next week."

Lisa Grouette / LISA GROUETTE Globe Gazette 

DNR officials are working to mitigate the loss of a number of species of mussels, some of which with threatened numbers, living along a dam in the Winnebago River at East Park.

Mussels on the move

At the meeting, the council also signed off on a plan to deal with a bed of rare and endangered mussels found on a stretch of the Winnebago River, in East Park, that the city is doing dam mitigation work on. The council voted 5-0 to award a contract to Daguna Consulting out of Rochester, Minnesota which, per its website, "provides scientific expertise on the conservation and management of endangered species."

In the council packet, the contract spells out that the estimated "not-to-exceed" fee is $19,000 for working on moving the mussels to safe, nearby habitats before work can progress. According to experts from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the mussels include several state-threatened species as well as a state-endangered species known as the "Ohio River Pigtoe."

While chatting about the item, At-Large Councilmember Paul Adams asked if further relocations would be needed in the future. According to Mason City Operation & Maintenance Manager Bill Stangler, the mussels should remain once they are established in their new habitat. 

Broadening sustainability

Along similar lines of stewardship and sustainability, the council gave the go-ahead to modify certain city trucks to be able to run biodiesel.

Under the terms spelled out in the city council packet: When the biodiesel is not able to be used in one of the seven trucks being modified, those vehicles will switch back to regular diesel. Supply for the trucks will come from REG (Renewable Energy Group) which is based in Mason City.

Per the City, costs for the equipment are being covered by REG as a part of a pilot program, which city officials could expand even further.

Construction round-up

With everything else going on, the council helped advance multiple construction projections for the city as well.

One of the bigger ticket items was awarding a contract to Henkel Construction who had a low bid of $389,410 for storm water mitigation work in the Eastbrooke area of Mason City. Per notes from City Engineer Mark Rahm, that work will involve turf restoration as well as culvert construction and is budgeted for $600,000.

The city awarded another six-figure contract to Weikert Contracting out of Cedar Falls to help complete the 2021 Pavement Marking Program. The work will involve updating not just markings for drivers but for bicyclists as well. Weikert's low bid was $200,401 and the item is funded with "Road Use Tax" money according to Rahm.

Financial report

Per Mason City Finance Director Kevin Jacobson, the city's general fund expenditures for the month of March totaled $968,761 against a budget of $1,146,451.

As for revenues, Jacobson wrote that the general fund actually took in $1,076,127 versus a projection of $1,155,506. 

"Overall, the General Fund revenues are greater than expenses on March 31, 2021 by approximately $1,672,500," he wrote. 

Shining examples

At the start of the meeting, Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel took time out to honor two residents who performed a dramatic rescue earlier this month. 

Jason Hahn and Steve Fettkether helped pulled a Manly woman from a truck on fire on County Road B20. The two were able to cut 61-year-old Donna Rench loose from her seatbelt before her Ford F-150 was fully overwhelmed by flames. 

In recognition, Schickel said the pair risked their lives. "(We) recognize them for their life-saving deeds, the inspiration they have given us and the shining example they have set for our community."

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