Have you ever been so happy for someone while so sad for yourself? That pretty describes all of us who've ever worked with Gary Eckenberg. This wise and kind man, who describes himself as "a cartoonist with a pretty good filing system", is retiring Friday after working for St. Louis County for nearly 40 years.
I've been lucky enough to report to Gary and work across the hall from him for the last four years. Words cannot describe how much I've valued him as a resource and appreciated his wonderful personality and sense of humor. And how much I will miss him come next Monday.
Clearly, just about everyone else who's ever had the pleasure of knowing Gary feels the same.
Both the St. Louis County Board and the Mayor of Duluth surprised Gary at his final Board meeting this week, issuing proclamations in his honor, in recognition of the work he has done to help so many people.
If it's easier to read, the text of the County proclamation is as follows:
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg has served the citizens of St. Louis County with great dedication for nearly 40 years, initially hired in 1977 as a Public Health Educator-Media Technician, and rising to his current position as Deputy Administrator of Governance and Policy; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg has served with and survived all seven County Administrators, and has been integral in providing consistency, and stability, along with dignity, humility, levity and a touch of class; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg with his amazing memory, knowledge and experience has been a tremendous resource for the County Board and staff; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg has assisted in preparing for and attended more than 400 County Board meetings, and proofread an estimated 8,500 Board letters and resolutions, and still maintained a remarkable sense of grace and humor; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg has announced his retirement, effective October 28, 2016, and leaves behind not only big shoes to fill, but also shoes that are always the perfect accessory to his well-coordinated wardrobe;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, We the Commissioners of the St. Louis County Board, do proclaim the week of October 24-28, 2016, as Gary Eckenberg Appreciation Week in St. Louis County, in recognition of his many years of service;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we have been honored to call him both a colleague and friend, and we wish him well as he cleans out his extraordinary collection displayed in his office, and drives off to a well-deserved retirement in his classic ’37 Dodge.
Meanwhile, the Mayoral proclamation states:
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg is a lifelong Duluthian, graduating from Duluth Denfeld High School in 1968, followed by the University of Minnesota, Duluth; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg was instrumental in rebranding the former “West End” of Duluth to the current Lincoln Park neighborhood, an effort that inspired pride and revitalization efforts in this community, and continues to proudly live in his Lincoln Park home where he and his wife Barb raised their family; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg was appointed to the Duluth City Council on two separate occasions, representing the people of the 4th district with dedication and commitment from 2000 to 2002, and again in 2009; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg championed efforts in Duluth to make it one of the first cities in Minnesota to pass a clean indoor air policy, understanding that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure, and shared his knowledge and expertise with communities around the state, ultimately leading to Freedom to Breathe – Minnesota’s law limiting smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg has volunteered countless hours with non-profit organizations to improve our community, including the United Way of Greater Duluth and One Roof Community Housing, and was once honored nationally with the Neighbor Works Dorothy Richardson Award for bringing positive change to neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, Gary Eckenberg is retiring this Friday, October 28, after nearly 40 years of service to the citizens of St. Louis County.
Now, therefore, I, Emily Larson, Mayor of the City of Duluth, do officially proclaim Friday, October 28th, 2016, as Gary Eckenberg Day in the City of Duluth.
Gary was humble as always in accepting the praise. Later that day, at a reception in his honor, he thanked those around him, and he presented County Administrator Kevin Gray with a gift that illustrates yet again what a talented artist Gary is.
Gary, I speak for many when I wish you the happiest of retirements. It has been an honor to work with and learn from you. You will be greatly missed.