Waconia is a better place thanks to Walt Schmakel

Mayor’s Notes by Jim Nash

On Sept. 4, the Waconia City Council declared it Walt Schmakel day here in Waconia. It is something really significant to declare a whole day in someone’s honor so I wanted to give a little insight into why we are doing this for someone who was a member of our community.
A city is really the sum total of its parts; no one person really defines it, but a city achieves greatness when individual members make significant contributions for years and years. Walt was one of those people and I wanted to make sure that we honored this man for his service to community, and country.
Walt served his country in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of Sergeant Major, which is a rank that enlisted soldiers respect and fear, and officers listen to their advice.  Walt led many people in his time in the Army and in leading them, served them during that time. Watching out for them, teaching them, making them better at their jobs, and reminding them that the uniform they were wearing was pretty special, all during a time that many back home in the U.S. were saying the exact opposite.
Walt was unabashedly patriotic and I just loved that in him because I am the same way. Walt loved his country, loved the men and women who fought for it, and loved the flag that represented that country.
Our flag is an emblem, an icon, a visual reminder of a dream that became reality because others like Walt put on a uniform to fight to secure our country’s freedom. Walt believed in that idea, that country, and once he retired and came home to Waconia, spent the rest of his life serving veterans in both the American Legion, and the V.F.W. here in Waconia.
The American flag was important to Walt, and he told me that he was proud to have led the effort to insure that the City of Waconia and the schools always had U.S. flags that were in good repair to hang on the light poles, flag poles and in City Hall. He gave of his time, encouraged others and worked alongside them to fund the flag purchases.
Quietly, flags showed up as donations to the city, and fresh flags were raised at the schools. Not expecting thanks or any fanfare, Walt led the Legion in that important effort and I am grateful to him for doing so.
Walt told me just weeks before he died as we were chatting at the Legion that he was grateful that in the last two years the City Council meetings start with the Pledge of Allegiance, and that he was glad that we were starting off our official business with keeping what we were doing in perspective first with the pledge.
Walt and the Legion members were to conduct the flag ceremony on Sept. 4th, and sadly he won’t be there with us that night, but the Legion will, and I think that it is an appropriate tip of the hat to Walt that after the flag is presented we will be declaring a day in his honor.
God Bless our country and thank you to Walt, Waconia is better for having had you as one of its own.

Jim Nash is the mayor of Waconia.