Mayor Schugt leaves legacy of new methods
Blaine mayor Dieter Schugt died at home just after 10:30 a.m. on October 4, leaving behind not only family and friends, but a new way of doing business for Blaine city council.
“I think he set the tone, he led by example” said city council member Bonnie Onyon. “He was a good leader, a quiet leader but a strong leader. I consider him a mentor and definitely a friend.”
Schugt had been mayor of Blaine since replacing John Hobberlin in 2001, after two years on city council and previously four years leading the planning commission. During his tenure, the city abandoned the idea of sending issues to council subcommittees, which made subsequent recommendations to council. “The entire staff felt it wasn’t working,” Tomsic said. “You’d go over it in committee then have to do it all over again in council.” Schugt actively supported Tomsic’s proposal for more work sessions in which the whole council reviewed complex issues. The work sessions, “every Monday if we need to,” Onyon said, have become the proving ground through which council emerges as a unified whole at regular sessions to make official decisions. “Dieter would strongly state his opinion but he would work very hard for consensus,” Onyon said. “He felt most comfortable when we were all on board in the end.”
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said Schugt’s affinity for non-confrontational problem solving and consensus building had helped shape the relationship between council and city staff, building a healthy and productive team. “He was very intelligent, very thorough and very interested in a global way – he was not a one or two issue person,” Tomsic said. He said Schugt was the only mayor he had ever worked with who attended weekly staff meetings. “Right up to the end something he really enjoyed was attending those meetings – to interact, help solve problems, plan,” Tomsic said.
Onyon said Schugt’s appetite for information and thorough study of issues, combined with his close working relationship with city staff, helped keep things on track. “He always followed through and I think that helped make things happen,” she said.
Schugt also continued Hobberlin’s initiative in taking Blaine issues to a larger audience, serving as chair of the Whatcom Council of Governments and with the Small Cities Caucus. “He leaves a big chair to fill,” said mayor pro-tem John Liebert, who will fill that chair until a new mayor is selected. “It’s going to be a real challenge for us to approach his enthusiasm and dedication to keeping Blaine in the forefront.”
Schugt will be remembered as a man at a memorial service October 13 at 4 p.m. at the United Church of Christ on Fourth Street. He will be honored as a statesman when on October 25 remaining council members appoint someone to fill his council seat and the full council chooses a new leader to replace him as mayor. “Whoever we vote for, I think his spirit will continue,” Onyon said.