A controversial development plan had recently been approved by City Council. A group of Creve Coeur residents, upset with the project, vowed to run a slate of candidates to take back the council. But they needed someone to run for Mayor against a longtime incumbent.
So they recruited Harold Dielmann to run for Mayor of Creve Coeur in 1966.
Dielmann had previously served a term on the Planning and Zoning Commission, but said he didn't learn he hadn't been reappointed to the board by then Mayor John Beirne until he showed up for meeting and found someone else in his seat.
He wasn't afraid to tell Patch on Friday that he was "pissed off" about the slight. He wasn't up in arms over the development project either, a Howard Johnson's located on Lindbergh Boulevard where the now-vacant Watercolors Cafe sits. To this day, he says he's not exactly sure why he was approached about challenging Bierne. He figures they were looking for someone who was connected to older residents in town, considering he was President of and was also active at and in local little league circles.
But he had to ask his boss at AT&T first.
"Hell", Dielmann said his boss told him, "You couldn’t get elected anyway, so just go ahead and do it."
He did, but he won.
INTO THE FIRE
Just a month into office, a developer who was also a campaign supporter came forward with plans to turn the land for the city's 18 hole golf course into an office complex. Dielmann said he supported the project, but wanted to keep 9 holes for the course. Two years later and despite a 1000 signature petition, Dielmann cast the tie-breaking vote to move forward with the project. Despite the opposition, he calls saving part of the golf course one of his single biggest accomplishments, along with helping to come up with the city's broken heart logo.
His first stint as Mayor coincided with Creve Coeur's growth as a business target, made more possible with the opening of the Olive/Interstate 270 interchange, which also begat the annual Creve Coeur Days festivities. It also saw the city pass a charter form of government, giving the day-to-day responsibilities of running the city to an administrator.
While the charter took away some of the Mayor's responsibilites, Dielmann said there is still plenty left for the person with the job. "I probably met someone new every day while I was Mayor. There’s always someone coming in with something and you meet so many people it’s just unbelievable. People don’t realize how big a job it really is, there’s a lot of activity going on in a community our size."
The change to a charter also didn't stop people from coming to him first if they had a complaint about a sidewalk or a road project.
"It’s so easy to call up the line, and I’m the end one and they got my number."
A NEW CHAPTER (Part 1)
After 19 years in office, and a bid for Congress that fell short, Dielmann decided to retire as Mayor in 1985. He moved onto various business projects, including a travel agency, a laundromat and continued using a realtor's license he's kept active since 1958 to work on local subdivisions and commercial projects like the
He was urged to run again in 2003 and beat out former city councilman Richard Wolkowitz. Now, 9 years later, he's term-limited and is retiring from public office. Again. Despite a final year in office which saw him and endure a six-week homebound recovery , Mayor Dielmann said he's not retiring from public life.
A NEW CHAPTER (Part 2)
Dielmann already plans to be involved with a network marketing operation with help from his daughter, Susan. That real estate license will continue to come in handy too, and he suspects he'll be back before the city "on the other side of the table," he said.
Mayor Dielmann leaves office with few stated regrets, chiefly the lack of a city recreation center. Despite critics who for years were critical of his ties to developers he is unapologetic. He says those who want the Mayor to meet with developers only with city staff present run the risk of scaring business out of town, and that he has always been above board.
Dielmann will be honored Monday along with the newly elected Mayor Barry Glantz and the re-elected city council at a reception prior to the council meeting. Preparations are underway for a retirement party in his honor for later this summer.
"It’s different when you’re leaving something that you’ve been at for so long," Dielmann said, confident that he's had a good run.