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When people ask, Dummer's likely to say 'yes'

Former Red Wing Mayor Donna Dummer reviewed her term in office in an article she wrote for The Current, the former city newsletter. (photo by Ruth Nerhaugen)

Editor's note: This story is part of Faces A to Z, a series highlighting familiar — and not so familiar — faces around Goodhue County. Learn more about the series and how to get involed here, and check back to the A to Z page for stories, history lessons and Q&As.

Volunteering has gotten Donna Dummer into all kinds of ... situations.

For example, her willingness to help others resulted in the family taking in 10 foster children. It even got her elected mayor of Red Wing.

But it's not all about her. Dummer was also responsible for getting countless other local residents signed up to do volunteer work, too.

Dummer and her husband, Glen, are embarking on the next stage of their life in Red Wing. They have sold the 117-year-old house they lived in for 42 years and moved into a local town home. They downsized. They gave up their land line.

But they're staying in Red Wing, because the years here have been full and rewarding.

Dummer was born in Cleveland and grew up in Nashville and Minneapolis. She was studying elementary education at St. Cloud State University when she met Glen.

"I was a Dunker and he was a Dummer," she explained. The teacher of the huge Geography 101 class sat the 200-or so students alphabetically.

By the time he finished his business degree, they were engaged. They married in 1967 and moved to Red Wing, where he got a job at Red Wing Shoe Co.

She didn't make it back to school to get her bachelor's degree — in communications — until after their three children, Darcy, Greg and Delana, were born and nearly grown.

"I wanted to finish college before the kids finished high school," Dummer explained, and she did, by attending a program at Concordia College in St. Paul.

he children were still in school when the family took in the first of 10 foster children through Goodhue County Social Services.

"I've always liked kids," she said. One day her minister's wife, a social worker, came to her and said, "We're in dire need of a place for a little girl. She needs someplace to go."

That was all it took, Dummer said. "That was the start of it."

Over the next 10 years, they fostered boys and girls ranging in age from elementary to high school. "They became sisters and brothers to the kids," she said, sharing rooms and staying for the school year.

Dummer stayed home with her kids and did volunteer work at United Methodist Church and Girl Scouts until they were in school, then found a variety of jobs in the community that suited her well.

She was assistant to the volunteer director at the State Training School, now the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, then spent several years as receptionist for the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center.

Dummer especially enjoyed her years at Red Wing High School working with student groups and providing support.

Then came the city election of 2004. Glen came home from golfing one day and told her his friend Jim Key suggested she run for mayor. It happened a second time.

"I never ran for a thing in my life," she said, so she called up Key to ask why he would even suggest such a thing.

"You're electable and likable," he told her. If she was willing to run, he promised to chair her committee. He had a treasurer lined up, too. Glen said he'd be secretary.

Before she knew it, Dummer was at City Hall filing as a candidate.

During her four-year (2005-08) term, memorable things were accomplished in Red Wing, she said, pointing out that it was a time before the city faced major budget cuts.

She enjoyed the role, the staff and the community.

Red Wing celebrated its sesquicentennial. Dummer formed the Downtown Task Force to begin talking about empty storefronts, and many meetings were held to get public input on waterfront issues. The Sustainability Commission was formed.

Construction began on the new Central Park Bandshell. Work began on a walking trail along the riverfront. The Universal Playground was installed at Colvill Park.

"As mayor, I got a lot of volunteers to help with city gardens," Dummer recalled.

She chose not to run for another term, but was asked to continue her involvement with local volunteers — on a volunteer basis, of course. That task kept her busy for another two years.

Since then, though, Dummer has concentrated more of her time on family. She and her husband have done some traveling, and they have seven grandkids to enjoy plus her 95-year-old mother in the Twin Cities to visit.

Downsizing and moving have occupied her recently, and "I'm not quite in a joining mode" right now, Dummer admitted.

But she does have an idea, sparked by the recent windstorms that swept through the area.

"I think it'd be great if all the neighborhoods got together and went out and picked up the litter" from that storm, she said, adding "and checked on their neighbors."

In fact, if you're looking for her, that's probably where you'll find her. "I love to walk," she said, so chances are she'll be out picking up litter herself.