Monday, July 25, 2011

If gamblers at the track get three good horses in a race, they call it a trifecta.

Trifectas involve a lot of luck — and they can pay off big.

Carroll residents, past and present, were fortunate to hit their own trifecta of sorts when it came to city leaders over much of the last century as three men of enormous character, integrity and vision played critical roles in turning a simple, western Iowa farming town into a thriving, progressive city.

These men had plenty of help in this endeavor.

If they were alive, surely that would be their first point: “We don’t deserve the credit.”

But they do.

There is no mistaking the fact that Father Joseph Kuemper, Mayor Arthur N. Neu and Mayor William S. Farner were the driving forces behind growth and progress in Carroll over the last 100 years.

Taken together, their “official” service to Carroll lasted about 75 years — and their legacies continue.

Let’s start in chronological order with Father Kuemper who arrived in Carroll County in 1901.

It was Father Kuemper who developed some of the county’s most important institutions: St. Anthony Hospital, St. Angela Institute, St. Lawrence — as well as an increased church presence in Maple River, Lidderdale and other parts of the county.

Father Kuemper’s 1923 obituary in the Carroll Times contained the following tribute: “Thus ends the eventful career of the man responsible for the building of some of Carroll’s largest and best institutions. He was industrious, courageous, straightforward and public-spirited and set an example in life well worth of emulation. He was a man of modest, unassuming disposition, who rarely spoke of himself, and yet withal possessing such strength of character that he clung to his ideals with absolute inflexibility. It is said of him that he never forgot a friend nor missed an opportunity of reciprocating a kindly act.”

Just six years separated Father Kuemper’s passing and Arthur N. Neu’s appointment to the city council in 1929.

Neu, who became mayor in 1934, would be the key figure in city politics until 1960, leading Carroll through the Depression, World War II and the post-war boom, making the decisions, with the help of others, that would lead to a major population increase and advancements with technology and city services.

Of Neu’s passing in 1960, the Carroll Daily Times Herald editorialized: “There is abundant evidence on every hand that Carroll is a better city as a result of Mayor Neu’s many years of service in the municipal administration. He was ever on the alert for betterment in all phases of community life. Possessing a significant ability to work harmoniously and effectively with all civic and economic factions, if indeed factionalism were ever involved which would be seldom, Mayor Neu steered the growth and progress of Carroll on a true and constant course.”

Following Neu’s death, William S. Farner took over as mayor and served for the next 15 years, a time in which he provided stewardship for urban renewal and the advancement of facilities in Carroll — all the while building one of the city’s most important businesses, Farner-Bocken distributing company.

Former Times Herald editor Wilbert Reitz said after Farner’s death that the urban-renewal project “saw many dingy 100-year-old buildings razed and replaced with sparkling new structures that included one of the finest enclosed shopping malls in the state. The few older buildings that were not leveled by the wrecking ball were rehabilitated and modernized to blend in with the new.”

Farner’s work for the city started well before he assumed the position of mayor — and continued after he left office.

This is just a cursory review of the lives and careers of these three men.

Carroll is fortunate that we had the right men at the right time in the right positions.

Personally, I’d like to think that had a little more to do with providence than race-track-style dumb luck.