Legacy of service – Friends, associates remember Don Fleck

July 2022 Posted in Community, People

By Stephen Floyd

Mt. Angel Mayor Don Fleck is being remembered as an exemplary civil servant and a force within his community after his sudden passing June 26.

Fleck, 68, died of natural causes at his home.He was laid to rest July 1 during a graveside service at Calvary Cemetery. At the memorial service held at the Mount Angel Festhalle, friends and family recalled a man with a strong desire to serve and the insight to serve well.

“What a blessing Don has been, what a model of a servant,” said Pastor Scott Nelson of the Morningstar Community Church, where Fleck attended.

Forged by fire

Nelson shared how Fleck grew up in Mt. Angel, married his high school sweetheart and raised five daughters in town. He also described Fleck’s entry into a firefighting career that would help define his life, including serving as fire chief of the Mt. Angel Fire District.

In 1975, Fleck was working in his father’s auto repair shop when the building caught fire. Volunteers responding managed to save the building and, shortly afterward, Fleck applied to join their ranks, though notoriously without telling his wife, Nann Fleck.

“As great a man as Don Fleck was, there was an impishness to his character as well,” said Nelson.

Fleck was hired by the Salem Fire Department in 1981 while still volunteering for MAFD. Salem Professional Firefighters, a local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), memorialized Fleck on Facebook as a large presence among firefighters, in his community and within his family.

“We all need to look at Don and the path he took,” it read. “He was a mentor to so many, and truly what we all should strive to be.”

Fleck retired from Salem Fire in 2007 as a captain, and from MAFD in 2012 as fire chief. But he remained active as an instructor and mentor to young firefighters, both locally and throughout the country through IAFF.

Nelson said, though Fleck spent many years in a high-intensity profession, he remained stalwart as a man of faith and integrity, even through difficult times.

“For all the things that Don saw in his life, it never made him a callous man or cynical,” he said. “If anything, it enlarged his heart. He loved to serve, and he served so very well.”

Wall now acting mayor

After mostly retiring from firefighting, Fleck joined the Mt. Angel City Council in 2014 and served for two terms before being elected mayor in 2020. He had six months left on his mayoral term at the time of his death.

According to the city charter, City Council President Pete Wall will be acting mayor until the council appoints a successor to serve the remainder of Fleck’s term. Wall said if appointed he would not intend to seek election but instead return to his role on the council after Fleck’s term concludes.

However, the charter is unclear how this process should specifically take place including whether or not an appointee must be a current city official, or how a council member would return to their seat after filling a mayoral vacancy. The council has directed City Manager Mark Daniel to confer with the city attorney and clear up these ambiguities before it makes an appointment, potentially during the Aug. 1 council meeting.

When the council met for its regular meeting July 5, it observed a moment of silence for Fleck and Wall said the late mayor can count on fellow officials to pursue the city’s best interests.

“Don, I love you, and I’m positive our entire council will move forward in positively serving our community as you would want us to do,” said Wall.

Council Member Shelley Otte echoed this sentiment and said, though she felt speechless about Fleck’s passing, she was sure the council was unified.

“I think we’ll do well as a group going forward,” said Otte.

Daniel, also the city’s police chief, said he knew Fleck back when they both worked in Salem during the 1980s – Fleck for the fire department and Daniel for the Salem Police Department. He said sharing the news of Fleck’s passing with fellow officials was a very difficult moment, but he looks back on his relationship with Fleck with fondness.

“I owe Don a debt of gratitude, and I’m just very proud to serve and to continue to move ahead, just as Pete said, as Don would want us to,” said Daniel.

Of the many remembrances of Fleck’s life, Nelson perhaps summarized the late mayor most succinctly. Nelson said Fleck was “unflappable” and had a calming effect among those he served and volunteered with, which was a blessing for people in moments of great anxiety.

“He loved to serve, and he served so very well. I’m thankful to have met him,” said Nelson. “… What an example, and what a legacy.”

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.