A peacemaker at heart, Mayor White dealt with national controversy
AUBURN – Auburn Mayor Dan White announced this week he will not seek re-election with acclaim for his city and its controversies.
A former police chief, White ran for election without an agenda beyond wanting to give something back to the community. Although he didn’t propose anything more controversial than hiring the city’s first city administrator, controversy came.
A leading manufacturer Ariens announced it would close in 2018 and the only department store, ShopKo, closed shortly after. Mayor White held to a hands-off style of leadership while the city lured Fast Global Solutions to save jobs.
Mayor White was handling the typical nuisance complaints and helping to form a committee to look into a new fire hall when things changed.
White: “What was different was dealing with the COVID, like everybody.”
Like most cities, Auburn shut down its parks and playground equipment and health officials were calling for social distancing and masks.
White: “We never had a mandate. We did the proclamation and a lot of people assumed it was a mandate.”
Vocal mask opponents from different cities and even neighboring states filled city hall meetings, but it was just a precursor to controversy when a group of Auburn citizens asked the city council to declare Auburn a sanctuary city for pre-born babies. The mayor cast the tie-breaking vote.
White : “It caused … it split the city a little bit on views. You know, on private views and if the city should be involved.”
He said the hiring of the city’s first administrator/economic developer, Crystal Dunekacke, has been a big boost for the community and an asset for the mayor’s office.
White: “The biggest highlight was getting our city administrator/economic developer. She’s doing an awesome job … it made the mayor’s job – my phone doesn’t ring anymore where it used to.”
Mayor White pointed to the honeybee public art project, Auburn Arts and Events' birthday celebration and the retail energy from downtown boutiques as indicators that the city will flourish beyond the pandemic and reverberations from controversy.
White: “I believe it’s better. It’s going the right direction. Auburn is headed the right direction and it’s only going to get better.”
White said the mayor's office is a great job, but he is looking forward to having more time to spend with his family.