A Thank-You Note to Dubuque, Iowa

ā€‹10 February 2017

Dear Dubuque:

I’m writing this from my favorite downtown coffee shop, the same place I’ve often found myself going for lunch and a caffeine hit on Friday afternoons. Several odds and ends are moved already–the only major items left are kitchen supplies, electronics, and furniture. I start the new job in Madison next Monday and my new Wisconsin driver’s license is on its way. So I guess this is really it. Writing this after only a year is far sooner than I thought it would come, but it is what it is (never heard that phrase used in a happy context). And hey, the first question anyone has after a fling fizzles out (and often the last one to be answered) is, “Why did it end so soon?”

You have no reason to miss me if you don’t want to. You’ve got over 200 years since Julien showed up, what’s another year of of a twenty-something gathering his bearings, consistently being confused for a seventeen-year-old, and biding time until a spot in that young-people haven up US 151 opens up? I bet that story sounds familiar to you.

But I hadn’t heard your story before. And you’re a huge part of my story now, Dubuque. I came here with an open mind and a job. That was it. Family was nearby, but I was starting fresh in every other regard. But if all I wanted from you was a job, I wouldn’t have been interested in the first place. Even a job here is much more than twiddling behind a desk like Peter Gibbons at Initech. People here truly want to be here and will do whatever interests them to whatever extent it takes for your betterment. It takes a great collection of ideals, wisdom, and strength to go from a bygone meatpacking and millworking metropolis to a forward-thinking community with an upbeat urban fabric, and I cannot understate how much I respect that and how honored I am to have played a small part in that transformation. You might be misconstrued for “small” on paper, but you’ve got a powerful voice in a petite, elegant package. Don’t ever forget that.

Keep getting your name out there, Dubuque. In this day and age, anyone can launch a business or propagate the next great idea from anywhere they want. I’d love to see you push yourself; don’t be complacent with mimicking the ideas and precedents coming out of other cities, but be the place leading the way forward. Look at Steeple Square and the Caradco Building. These are fantastic examples of historic preservation mixing with modern-day functionality that should be highlighted and vaunted in all corners of this country. I can tell that you’re modest by nature, but don’t sell yourself short either. Your picturesque setting in this Mississippi River valley is only the surface of what you have to offer on a very grand scale.

Even from another state over, I’m always available to help you advance that effort. And in the spirit of pushing yourself, let me give you a little design challenge: YOU NEED A NEW FLAG. City flags can offer an everlasting emblem that provides definition and unity (the red stars of Chicago, for example). These designs are often simple and abstract, but bold and identifiable at the same time. Dubuque, I’m going to be honest: your flag looks like a tablecloth used at a picnic in a home video shot in 1964. It takes Roman Mars’ “seal on a bedsheet” to a whole new level, dare I say “seal on a bedsheet, on a bedsheet, on a bedsheet.” Would anyone dare taking the Chicago flag down and replacing it with the John Deere logo when their convention is in town? Several cities around the United States are turning to their citizens to redesign their city flags, and I know you have some incredibly talented individuals who would be honored to put their mark on your identity.

But you know what, Dubuque? Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the experiences we’ve shared over the past year. Thank you for the chance to work with two amazingly talented and dedicated individuals, and please grant them the chance to make an even more profound impact through their new business venture. May your downtown coffee shops, bars, and breweries continue serving as places for ideas to be shared and achievements great and small to be celebrated. And I hope your river banks keep providing solace and amusement for your full gamut of residents and visitors, just as they have for me in more ways than I can describe. A new generation with a new set of problems to solve awaits, Dubuque–show it the way forward.

So I guess this is it. I could be sad, perhaps a little bitter, about leaving, but these feelings are subordinate to my unbridled excitement over what lies ahead for both of us. I have a good feeling that our story isn’t over, and I know there is much yet to do.



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