When rumor spread on Saturday that former Huntington Mayor Jean Dean had passed away, many took to social media and used some form of the word ‘grace’ to describe it.
Many people who knew Dean have spoken of how she wrote thank you notes or showed other ways of appreciating what they had done for her.
She was firm but not pugilist. She did not seek to nullify or destroy her political opponents.
His English upbringing was undoubtedly a big part of his good manners. For some people, these habits have led detractors to call her “Queen Dean”. Today, such comments would be considered fanatic or xenophobic.
Dean’s approach was totally opposite to what we’ve seen nationally over the last generation. This approach has unfortunately spread to the state level. So far, this has been spared us at the local level, mainly. It’s not easy to talk about bashing someone you meet at the grocery store every week or sit next to at a youth sporting event cheering on the same team. Courtesy, respect and grace are things that we have lost in much of our political discourse.
Current Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and former Mayors Kim Wolfe and David Felinton have carried on Dean’s tradition of respect – at least outwardly – for their political opponents. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when he’s disappointed, but Dean’s general pattern was the opposite of what we see in national media and on social media today.
Would Dean have had a political career in today’s environment? It’s hard to say. She was definitely a woman for her time.
Dean’s name will live on as long as he’s attached to the Huntington Town Center Police Station and as long as the portraits of former mayors are on display at Town Hall. Her legacy will remain as a woman who helped her town as a lower-level employee who rose through the ranks to the top post at Town Hall, who oversaw the creation of KineticPark and Pullman Square. , and which showed that the glass ceiling did not exist. here.
As they say of all mayors, Dean did not solve all the problems Huntington faced. His two terms in the late 1990s came as the city neared the end of its transition from a blue-collar industrial city to a city dominated by a university and medical establishment. The city’s population continued to decline and the resulting problems increased.
These concerns are generational. Four, eight or 12 years are not always enough to solve them.
The important thing for a mayor is to manage short-term problems and set things in motion so that his successors can rely on them. That’s what Dean did with a style that his passing reminded us is all too rare today. It is one of the best legacies a person can leave behind.