By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Although many citizens have contributed to Winsted’s success throughout the years, one man’s passion and dedication won’t soon be forgotten.
That man is Winsted’s former mayor Don Guggemos, 77, who passed away Sept. 17.
“He’s a legend an icon,” Council Member Bonnie Quast said.
“Don always did what he felt was in Winsted’s best interest,” Mayor Steve Stotko added. “If anyone questioned Don’s love for the city of Winsted, they would be badly mistaken.”
Don served 13 terms as Winsted’s mayor 1975-80, 1985-98, and 2001-06 a total of 26 years. He also served in countless other school, church, and community organizations, continually striving to make Winsted a better place.
In honor of Don’s life, all flags at Winsted City Hall were lowered to half-mast until 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24.
Council Member Tom Ollig cites a few of Don’s greatest city-related accomplishments as “the financial health of the city, good roads, a water tower and sewage plant with the capacity to last for many years, good infrastructure, and our new city hall.”
Ollig added that in Don’s personal life, family was of great importance.
Don and his wife, Helen, were married Sept. 8, 1956, which, incidentally, is the same wedding date as Quast and her husband, Paul.
Years later, Ollig and his wife, LuAnn, also got married Sept. 8.
“We always joked that it should be a national holiday,” Quast said, adding that when a council meeting fell on Sept. 8, they would talk about skipping out.
“But, we never did; we were all too devoted,” she said.
Quast is grateful to Don’s wife and six children (Paul, Chip, William, Debra, Mary, and Ruth) for “sharing Don all these years.”
Betty Zachmann, who began working as Winsted’s city clerk in 1974, vividly recalls Don’s devotion to the community.
“Don was always willing to help the employees with challenging situations, offering suggestions, treating the employees with respect, being available days, nights, and weekends if a question arose,” she noted.
Zachmann will never forget one council meeting in particular, when they were discussing wastewater and street improvements and lost track of time.
“One of the members stated we might want to call an end to the meeting, as it was 1:15 a.m., and street parking violations would be going into effect, with the entire council and clerk open to street parking tickets,” she said.
City Attorney Fran Eggert is also familiar with Don’s passion for Winsted.
“Don believed in solving problems,” he said. “He was always willing to listen to all sides, and gather all the information, and expert opinions (if necessary) before determining the course of action that was to be taken.”
Don’s personal background in the carpentry and financial industries often aided the council in building considerations and other city matters.
“Don had a great memory,” Ollig commented. “He could remember where sewer lines were, when some equipment was installed or purchased, who did what and when, and who said what and when. It was amazing. He had a keen sense for the finances of the city and planning for the future and what we, as a city, could and could not afford. The excellent financial condition the city enjoys today is in great part due to his leadership and vision.”
Dale Kovar of Herald Journal Publishing also appreciated Don’s abilities.
“Don was mayor when I first came to Winsted as a reporter at the Journal,” Kovar noted. “I was often impressed at his ability to do math calculations on the fly. Most of all, over the years, so many times it was evident he really loved his hometown community and took pride in anything to help make it even better.”
Don was a lifelong member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Winsted, and graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 1952. In 2011, he was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Other than the three years he served in the Army, Don lived in Winsted his entire life.
“He was just a remarkable man in many different ways,” Quast said. “He was a man of many talents. We have a lot of them in this town a lot of devoted people.”