Fires, departures and a record-breaking electionPublished 12:50pm Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Over the next several days, the staff at the Dowagiac Daily News will be looking back at the top 10 stories of 2013. We will feature three per day until the Dec. 31 issue when we will introduce the year’s top story.
The list is based on staff review of the most the read, talked about and impact stories of the year.
Summer closes with two fires
In late August, two of Dowagiac’s longstanding institutions
were set ablaze, a little more than a week apart from each other.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 21, one of the buildings at the Hampshire Country Club was set on fire. The ensuing fire destroyed the golf course’s entire 120-vehicle fleet of golf carts and caused damage to the course clubhouse.
Firefighters from Pokagon Township, Howard Township, Niles Charter Township responded to the fire. Authorities with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office later determined what caused the fire, blaming two 15-year-old juveniles for the incident.
The Hampshire Country Club has been open in Dowagiac since 1961, and has two public 18-hole golf courses.
Only 8 days after the golf course fire, the rehabilitation clinic of the Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital caught fire late in the evening of Aug. 29. The facility, once known as the Comstock building, suffered minor damage from the ensuing fire.
There were no injuries as a result of the blaze, as there was no one occupying the building at the time of the incident. Patients inside the main hospital were not evacuated, as the fire was contained to the Comstock building.
Authorities with the Dowagiac Fire Department determined that the cause of fire was accidental.
The clinic portion of the building reopened the following week, missing only a single day of operation.
A year of farewells
Throughout the year, a number of notable members of the Dowagiac community stepped down from their posts, moving on to the next phase of their careers.
In July, Tom Atkinson retired as the chief of the Dowagiac Police Department after 16 years of service to become the new chief of staff at Southwestern Michigan College. Atkinson brought his decades worth of experience in law enforcement into his new position, where he serves as head of the campus security.
During his time as Dowagiac’s top cop, Atkinson oversaw the construction of a new fire station for the city and helped shape the department into what it is today.
In October, Matt Wesaw stepped down as the tribal chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi to become the executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Wesaw’s departure comes in the same year as the launch of the Four Winds Dowagiac Casino. Since taking over as chair of the tribe in 1996, the Pokagon Band has undergone rapid growth, with its gaming operation continuing to grow throughout Southwest Michigan.
Wesaw is the first Native American to hold the title of executive director of the civil rights department, and only the second to have joined its ranks.
Finally, the long time community editor of the Dowagiac Daily News, John Eby, left the paper in September to serve as the senior writer and media relations coordinator at Southwestern Michigan College.
Eby had written for the paper for 33 years, working for seven different publishers. During his time with the Daily News, Eby met with countless members of the Dowagiac community, and also had the opportunity to speak with a number of celebrities as well.
Don Lyons re-elected, will be Dowagiac’s longest serving mayor
In the most recent election, Don Lyons was reelected as mayor of Dowagiac, his fifth term in office. The re-election puts him on course to become the longest serving mayor in city history, beating James Burke’s 16-year record.
Lyons, the owner of Lyons Industries in Dowagiac, was voted into office with 267 votes, narrowing edging out his opponent, Junior Oliver.
Since taking over the position, Lyons has oversaw the development of the Don Lyons Health Center and a new dental center in the city, along with countless other projects. Besides his role as the city’s top official, Lyons has served previous stints on the Dowagiac School Board, the Cass County Economic Development Commission and the Michigan Association of School Boards.