Dukart will not run for a third term
DICKINSON - A major impetus behind Rhonda Dukart's initial decision to run for her first term on the Dickinson City Commission became a reality in May 2004 when Dickinson's West River Community Center formally opened its doors.
Now almost four years later, Dukart has serious mixed emotions as she prepares to step down from the commission as her second four-year term comes to a close.
"That was probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make," she said this week about deciding not to seek a third term on the commission. "I could honestly say to anyone, for the past eight years, I am totally passionate about the position. I've committed all of my resources 100 percent to doing the job. Now I am not able to say that anymore."
As vice president of marketing for Consolidated in Dickinson, Dukart is a department of one person.
"So I need to give justice to my job. Consolidated has just been fantastic in allowing me to do the many things I do in the community and take the time off for me to do the things I do. In all fairness, I need to be here more and get my job done."
Dukart initially pursued the commission post to make a difference in getting the community center built.
"I felt being on the commission would be one way to help me do whatever I could to contribute to the community center project," she said.
She was encouraged to run, but also received some advice from someone who'd already been in that seat - her husband Ken.
"He told me I needed to have elephant skin. And he told me he just didn't know that I was going to be comfortable wearing elephant skin, because it's really not my nature," she said.
For the number of calls she's received while in office, most of the people on the other end of the line have simply wanted answers.
"They are not derogatory or critical. They just have questions," she said. "I enjoy that. I enjoy visiting with the people who ask can you find this and that or find out this."
There is a stark difference, however, concerning the times during which the two served on the commission.
"I served at a very progressive time. When Ken was there, it was right at the time the city was considering bankruptcy," she said.
That doesn't mean Dukart hasn't needed her husband's support while serving on the commission.
"He has listened, supported and eaten lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as I have been gone to many evening meetings or functions which are a part of serving on the commission," Dukart said of her husband.
The first four years in office for her simply flew by.
"It takes a long time to see how government operates versus business, where decisions are made much quicker in the business environment," she said. "With the city, you really want to be sure people know what you're doing, make sure they have time to think about it and call you and talk it over."
The slower pace at which government operates is a good thing, she added.
"The reason I think it is a good thing is because you can't assume that people are aware of all the things going on," Dukart said.
Growing up in the telephone business, she had a lot of things to learn and understand about street repairs, waste management and other city functions.
"The second four years, it too has gone by very, very quickly," she added.
Her time on the commission has helped to produce a positive change in attitude in the community, as the commission has made a commitment to listening to the people and looking down the road at what will make our community grow.
"That has been foremost on all of our minds and I think we as a team, while we certainly haven't agreed all the time, we all have been focused on the same goal," Dukart said. "I honestly need to give a lot of the credit to Dennis (Mayor Johnson). He has this quiet manner about him. He's very organized but he can see down the road. I think that has made a huge difference."
One of the things she's enjoyed most while serving on the commission is getting to know the city employees.
"People may not be aware of the quality that we have in city employees," she said.
Dukart singled out as an example Roger "Skip" Rapp, who supervises the city water and sewer department.
"He's extremely knowledgeable. He has state and federal regulations, he has so many rules and regulations he has to work within," she said. "You and I turn on the faucet and you and I don't think about it. We don't think about all the money he and his department have saved taxpayers because of the whole Solar Bee purification method (at the lagoons)."
She also believes the current commission has fostered a better line of communication between it and the city employees. And her greatest satisfaction is seeing the community center become a reality.
"I said the first time I get to walk into that building with my grandchildren, I'm going to smile from ear to ear," Dukart said. "Every time they come home, that is the first place they want to go."
She never doubted the project wouldn't happen.
"The reason is there were so many people involved in sharing ideas, gathering information. This project, unlike previous projects, we were out soliciting feelings and opinions and wishes of just hundreds of hundreds of people," Dukart said.
As she gets ready to step down, the city is proposing to rewrite the original ordinance that was passed by voters to fund the community center. The revision would allow the proceeds from the one-half percent city sales tax to be used for other building projects.
"There's always projects, there's always things," she said. "If you look at those things as ways to make our community a better place to live, it might not be something I'm going to (use). My children are grown up and gone. But for those parents coming behind me, I would love for them to have a great facility to go to."
She also encourages everyone to consider getting involved in the community.
"What sitting on the commission has done for me personally is it has opened doors to meeting so many people that I would never have met," Dukart said. "I just think you're missing out on so much because some of the best friends you might ever have you'll meet working on a project.
"That's what being involved will give back to you. I realize how busy everyone is. We're all busy. But taking that step and making that commitment, it's really, really rewarding."