A “majestic” maple and a former mayor kicked off a meaningful summer celebration on Thursday in Waverly, shortly before the start of the Chamber’s summer music series Concerts in Kohlmann.
It was quite the change from the turbulence of the storms that thundered through the area over the past two weeks.
Against the backdrop of a perfectly serene Cedar River, the City Hall building on the opposite bank reflected onto the quiet waters, meshed in with the lace of the white clouds.
Fittingly, the peaceful late afternoon mirrored the message of the ceremony that unfolded next to the festively decorated maple.
Dubbed a tree dedication ceremony, which became possible because some leftover funds from former Mayor Chuck Infelt’s last re-election campaign needed to be spent on community-minded projects, the event was much more than that.
Its symbolism was not lost on those present.
Waverly’s Mayor Dean Soash, who defeated Infelt’s re-election bid, and former Mayor Bob Brunkhorst, who preceded Infelt, attended the ceremony as did council members Brian Birgen, Ann Rathe, Mike Sherer, and Rod Drenkow.
Further, Garret Riordan, the newly appointed leisure services director, and other city staffers were also present. Notable in the audience was Dennis Dickman, Infelt’s campaign chair, who gave the opening remarks.
Infelt, Waverly’s two-term mayor, who prides himself on being a unifier and a peace-maker, spoke in his pastoral rhythmic voice, invoking images of unity and togetherness.
The message rang with poignantly calming overtones after the tumultuous council meeting earlier in the week, at which citizens expressed their frustrations with the three-lane change on Bremer Avenue.
It was a moment of much-needed healing and Mayor Infelt seized it.
“Waverly, a college river town with a rich heritage,” the mayor said, repeating, with great pride, the motto he had come up with during his administration to articulate the town’s identity.
Infelt had made it a point in his years in office to coalesce the energy of the town around a vision for the future, which reaches deep into its roots.
“As a town, we have turned a corner on becoming an absolutely wonderful and equally important, growing small town, which embraces an ability to do life right,” he said, ad-libbing and occasionally glancing at his typed up remarks. “Community building is so important and obviously challenging when outrage sneaks in. But differences are normal. And we remain one town bonded by gratefulness that we have for each other and for our town.”
Spoken like the pastor he is, Infelt emphasized the continuity in leadership at the city level, and its impact.
“This evening we empty, and share, our leftover campaign funds with an effort meant for the whole of Waverly, because we are all appreciative from the bottom of our hearts for Waverly being our hometown, a place built through the decades to be the place where we can love and be loved, and be thanked for service as we live out the American Dream, to be the place we raise anchored and rooted children to be world citizens, filled with caring compassion with a ‘for each other’ mentality,” Infelt said. “This tree is for everyone, and that privilege [is] with no politics involved. As mayors are non-partisan and for everyone, so is this wonderful, wonderful tree… A tree to shade us, calm us, uplift us, bring us aesthetic beauty, which can hopefully belong to our children and our children’s children.
“Let us continue to love each other in a town that first loved us! It is fitting that we now share food together, pizza in the park! We are one town forever!”