Stepping down with no regrets
Dale De Long has announced he will step down as mayor of Island City at end of year, bringing an end to 24-year storied political career.
Dale De Long launched his tenure as mayor of Island City in 1990, the same year the Hubble Space Telescope rocketed into earth’s orbit.
Today, the Hubble is still in orbit and De Long still leads Island City. The Hubble telescope is expected to operate at least another six years but De Long’s days as mayor are numbered.
De Long announced last week that he will not run for re-election this year. He will continue serving until his current term expires at the end of December.
“It has been a good 24 years. I have learned a lot,” De Long said. “I feel that it is time to step aside.”
Island City has come a long way in the past 24 years thanks in no small measure to De Long’s guidance. Island City’s population was just 300 in 1990 but today it is 1,015. The city also has an expanded business district, an improved water system, contracted law enforcement services with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, which were added several years ago, and better fire department and city hall facilities.
“We’ve grown up these past 24 years,” De Long said.
Island City’s growth has been spurred in part by the addition of Walmart in 1995. Walmart employs several hundred people and provides Island City with significant tax revenue. The presence of Walmart has also brought more businesses into Island City. De Long noted that many businesses have moved to Island City to be next to Walmart so they can tap into its customer traffic.
De Long said the progress Island City has made reflects the support the city has received from its residents.
“We have great people and a great community,” he said.
Island City has dealt with its share of hot button issues during De Long’s tenure, including disputes over housing construction projects and business operations, but the mayor seems ever relaxed and calm.
“I have learned that if you fly off the handle it comes back and bites you,” he said. “There is no need to get upset. It does not do any good, it is bad for my blood pressure.”
De Long first joined the city council in 1988, serving as a councilor for two years before being elected mayor.
De Long is Island City’s longest serving mayor, topping the late Fred Beeman, who was mayor for 13 years in the 1970s and 1980s. De Long, however, is not the longest serving current elected official in Island City. Joyce Beeman is in her 28th year on the city council. Beeman speaks highly of the job De Long has done as mayor.
“He’s a good person who works hard to get along with everyone. He’ll be missed,” Beeman said.
Judy Rygg, the city recorder and public works director, is impressed with the personal interest De Long takes in the community and how hard he tries to make city government accessible to the public.
“He wants people to feel comfortable. He wants them to know that if they have a problem they can come in and talk to him about it,” Rygg said.
This helps explain why De Long is a popular political figure. He is completing his 12th two-year term as mayor, yet has been challenged for re-election just once.
De Long is proud of his service to Island City and the family legacy he is extending. De Long’s great-great-grandfather, Ben Brown, was a member of the Island City City Council in the early 1900s. Brown is best known as one of the founders of La Grande in the 1860s. At one time, La Grande was named Brownsville in honor of Ben Brown.
“I take pride in carrying on a (family) tradition. There is a lot of heritage around here,” De Long said.
Island City’s city hall is based in a spacious, professional looking building on Island Avenue, a far cry from 24 years ago, however. City hall was based in a small building on McAlister Road when De Long took office in 1990.
“I didn’t have a chair there but now I have my own office,” De Long said of the building the city moved into in 1994.
De Long, 79, is looking forward to spending more time with his wife of 54 years, Jackie. De Long also intends to travel more and spend additional time on the links.
“I will be playing more golf,” he said.
De Long will step down as mayor 10-1/2 months from now with no regrets, certain that the time is right.
“(Serving as mayor) is fun,” he said. “I thought I better get out while it’s still fun.”