Friday, April 26, 2013
Our Small Town Hero Is Gone
Stanley Durnakowski, proud father, husband, army veteran, Polish farmer, and long-time Amherst College employee died yesterday at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital, where he was spending way to much time over the past few years, reporting for dialysis three times per week.
Over the course of my lifetime I have met many a person caught up in worthy causes who exhibited unflinching determination to meet a goal, but none that could compare with Stan The Man.
Thirteen years ago, with nothing but a clipboard, pens, folding table and a limitless yearning to make a difference, Stan Durnakowki singlehandedly shook the very foundation of Amherst town government.
Proving the pen is mightier than the sword, Stan collected 2,512 voter signatures required to force a ballot question on retiring our antiquated Town Meeting/Select Board government.
Mr. Durnakowski was then elected to the 9-member Charter Commission and deliberated for almost two years to come up with a professional Mayor/Council replacement government, except -- against Mr. Durnakowski's strong wishes -- the Mayor was more ceremonial with a town manager retained.
In 2003 the revolutionary binding ballot question stimulated an unusually high turnout -- at least for a local election -- of 30.8 %, and lost by less than 1%, only 14 votes.
Undeterred Stan went back out over the next two years and once again collected the signatures required to bring back the question for a second bite of the apple. In 2005 it failed by 214 votes.
But the close brush with death brought about a change in attitude of Amherst town officials. The Select Board has become far more normalized, almost to the point of boring, and Town Meeting has actually become more efficient, although still dominated by diehards who block progress at every turn.
Thanks Stan. If Heaven is is not to your liking, start a petition.
If anyone can keep God on his toes, you can.