The West Fargo City Commission is losing a good one with the announcement by longtime Commissioner Lou Bennett Monday night that he is relinquishing his position because he will no longer be making his home in the community.
In the many years I have covered city government in West Fargo, this is just the second time I've seen a commissioner leave before their term has expired. That fact alone speaks of real dedication by those who commit to the city's governing board.
Lou Bennett is definitely no exception.
His decision to leave was not prompted by anything complicated or controversial, only by a practical desire to spend more time with close family while that time is still available, a decision many others have made way too late and have lived to regret.
Bennett has filled the chair well as a highly-respected public servant, rarely missing a meeting and always willing to be involved with regular commission action - which many times was anything but regular - as well as serve on the countless subsidiary boards that went along with the service.
In his ten-plus years Bennett's keen insight into the decision making process always lent itself well to the city scheme of things - as a highly charged, outspoken advocate for anything benefitting the community which he has proudly called "home" for almost three decades.
Among the areas that stand out are the input and expertise he 'brought to the table' regarding the location and formation of the new library facility in the old West Fargo High and Middle School building. Many of you should remember that Bennett spent ten years as a member of the West Fargo Library board before his first City Commission run, and after that, with his well-versed history, appropriately served several years as the city liaison to the library group.
That expertise proved to be invaluable as plans and specs moved forward toward the realization of the new library facility.
Another pet contribution was Bennett's role in the formation and adoption of a newly-expanded recycling campaign four years ago that resulted in a marked increase in the city's curbside collection by incorporating the giveaway of almost 1000 recycling bins in an effort to bring some of the newer developments in the community into the 'go green' mix.
These two specifics are only the tip of the iceberg.
Bennett was a strong leader in every city portfolio he so professionally and conscientiously oversaw during his tenure, which literally covered every city department, including police, fire, sewer and water, and sanitation, as well as serving on the city forestry board, the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, and the Cass County Planning and Zoning Board.
On a personal note, Bennett maintained and supported strong community ties; seeing two of his daughters through the West Fargo school system; enjoying a longtime family affiliation as a member of the congregation at Lutheran Church of the Cross; and as a strong supporter of local military organizations, made even more meaningful educated as a meteorologist through the Military Technical Training Programs that he was privy to during his 40 years as a federal employee.
Indeed during his time in West Fargo, Bennett has been a driving, multi-faceted community force bent on doing "what was best" to advance the scope and direction of the city that he always tried to so positively and objectively serve.
There is no doubt his presence will be missed.
But Bennett can leave buoyed by a sense of satisfaction and a great pride in knowing that he served his community well, both as a private citizen and as an elected official.
The good news is that even though he is stepping down, his return to the lake for summer living means we will still see him around.
We wish you well, now retired Commissioner Bennett, as you enter this new chapter of your life.