By Jim Bloch
Dan Damman said good-bye as the mayor of Marysville and simultaneously announced his candidacy for 31st Circuit Court judge.
Damman will seek the seat held by Judge Dan Kelly, who will be too old to seek reelection in 2020.
“My decision not to run for reelection was not because I no longer wanted to be a public servant,” said Damman in an exit speech that lasted nearly a half-hour at the close of the regular meeting of the city council, held Oct. 28. “Quite the opposite. Sometimes people forget I have a day job. I’ve been a litigator for nearly 17 years. I hope in my next career that I’ll be able to combine the knowledge and skills that I have honed as a trial attorney with my passion for the law to serve the citizens of St. Clair County from a different position. As we have a judge who is retiring next year, it is my attention to run for judge of 31st Circuit Court in 2020.”
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Damman was elected to the city council in 2011 and elected as mayor in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
He looked back on his first day on the job.
“When I was sworn in, I received a standing ovation and I hadn’t even done anything yet. I thought to myself — what will people say when I leave?” said Damman, as heard on the audio recording of the council meeting posted on the city’s website. “And you gave me a standing ovation tonight. My wife the night I was sworn in gave me a gavel, which has on it one of my favorite Bible verses. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ “
Damman quoted from Jeremiah 29:11.
“Faith is easy when you know what’s coming,” Damman said. “Faith can be tested when you don’t. When I banged that gavel the first night, I had no idea what the next six years had in store for me. I can tell you this. I have never been as humbled or felt this loved or been as proud of a group of people as I have been serving this city.”
He talked about his desire to improve the city.
“The only thing I knew is I wanted to leave the city better than I found it,” said Damman. “We have a very short time on this planet. God graces us with gifts and we have a very short time to use them.”
There is no question that Marysville is in better shape now than it was in 2013.
Damman said that Marysville was one of the few cities in the county without a dedicated fund managed by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County. He and the city council started one.
Damman noted that he was a strong supporter of appointing Randy Fernandez as city manager. Together, they made a good team.
The Market Square strip mall was empty and Damman and Fernandez helped to fill it with new businesses like the Field House restaurant.
The city council under Damman helped create the city’s business council as a conduit between city hall and the business community. The business council, in turn, created Christmas in the Park and Hot Wheels Weekend.
Fernandez, with Damman’s support, landed grants and squeezed the budget hard enough to rebuild the city’s waterfront, construct a fishing pier and a new boat ramp, update the bike paths, refurbish the Little League fields, rebuild Huron and Michigan Avenues, renovate the recreation center, build a dog park and hire a dog.
“We got a dog,” said Damman. “The most popular employee in the city is on a leash. That was done through our police department.”
He was referring to Heiko the police dog.
“Everybody on this council wanted to empower the employees, to let them know that they meant something, that they were special, that they weren’t just a name. I hope we have done that.”
He also wanted residents to feel empowered.
“When somebody stands up there at that podium during their three minutes, they get an answer the following meeting,” Damman said. “I don’t know where else that happens.”
More time as mayor meant fewer hours at home.
“When I took on the role of mayor, I didn’t do it halfway,” Damman said. “I did it 110 percent. Everywhere I went I represented Marysville, everywhere around the county, at the state level. That took me away from my family quite a bit.”
He thanked wife Teresa, son Mason and daughter Emily.
He thanked Tom Konik, director of Public Safety, and his assistant Tom Buckmaster. He thanked Barry Kreiner, director of the DPW.
“If you want something done, ask Barry,” said Damman.
He thanked Bari Wrubel and the crew at the water and sewer plants.
“He knows exactly what he’s talking about,” said Damman.
He thanked Rene Stoia, Ann Ratliff, Julie Sobkowski, Renae Stocker and Jessica LaFore for their administrative wizardry.
“It’s because of you that being mayor was so easy,” Damman said.
He thanked all of the city council members over his years as mayor.
“If the next five councils are as dedicated as this one, you’ll all be in great shape,” Damman said.
Fernandez called Damman a great leader.
“There’s been $10 million in city improvements since he’s been mayor,” Fernandez said.
Former city council member and current St. Clair County Commissioner Duke Dunn presented Damman with a proclamation of gratitude for his work.
U.S. Congressman Paul Mitchell via aide Ed Smith thanked Damman for his service; so did U.S. Senator Gary Peters.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Hayman thanked Damman on behalf of the council.
“Mayor Damman, you have brought leadership, humor, trust, vision, faith and prayer to our city and our council chambers,” said Hayman. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a key to the city of Marysville than you… We are a better city because of you. In your own words, ‘be focused, be empowered and be bold’ in your next endeavor.”
Jim Bloch is an award-winning freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. He writes about the environment, local politics, art, music, history and culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.