MARSHALL - Yellow Medicine County Commissioner Richard "Dick" Wambeke was remembered Wednesday as an active and well-respected county commissioner.
Wambeke died at his home in Granite Falls on Tuesday. He was 71.
Wambeke served on the Granite Falls City Council, and more recently on the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners.
District 1 Commissioner Greg Renneke worked with Wambeke for a little more than a year.
"I really liked him," Renneke said. "I got along with him well and he was really open-minded. He was a pretty active commissioner."
Wambeke was born in Minneota on Jan. 4, 1941, graduated from Minneota High School in 1959 and served in the U.S. Army for three years.
He graduated from Mankato State University in 1967 with a B.S. in social sciences, and married Janet Traen of Minneota. The couple had three children: Brad, Scott, and Dawn.
In 1978 he moved to Granite Falls and worked as director of family services for Yellow Medicine County until retiring in 2003.
Renneke said Wambeke was very involved in family services issues because of his experience as director, and lately had been particularly involved in trying to find a way to preserve the Minnesota Falls Dam, condemned by the state Department of Natural Resources.
"He lived on the river and didn't want to see the dam go," Renneke said.
According to Granite Falls City Administrator Ryan Krosch, Wambeke was first elected to the county board in 2007, served a four-year term and was re-elected in 2011.
"He was a great person to work for and very well-respected by the rest of the board and county staff," Krosch said. "Because he had experience as a department head and knew how it works, he was a real asset as a commissioner."
"He was just an absolutely dedicated, hard-working public servant and was a guy that Yellow Medicine County for many years leaned on for his administrative professionalism and his experience," Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski said. "He brought an air of competency and professionalism to the office and to the whole county."
Smiglewski said Wambeke was a driving force behind the city's law enforcement and family services centers, so much so that he had to leave his post on the city council to focus his efforts there. He would later return to the council and serve another four years.
"He was very knowledgeable about the ups and downs of public finance and the ins and outs of dealing with personnel or tax issues," Smiglewski said. "He had a broad amount of experience and had a very even-keeled mind. And he also had a good sense of humor; we had a lot of fun working together."
Krosch said the county is currently reviewing the statutes on replacing a county commissioner and would be discussing the procedure at the next board meeting, but at present it appears a special election will be needed to fill the vacancy.
Wambeke's funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Granite Falls.