Longtime Dickinson County public figure passes away

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
David Gottsche

Dickinson County lost one of its most prominent public figures on Monday.

Longtime Dickinson County Board of Supervisors chairman David Gottsche passed away at Lakes Regional Healthcare in Spirit Lake. He was 71.

Gottsche was a rural Milford farmer who also served on the Iowa Lakes Community College Board of Trustees. Dickinson County board vice-chairman William "Bill" Leupold served with Gottsche since 2010.

"(David) pretty much dedicated his life to Dickinson County," Leupold said. "He had a great love for the people. I'm not sure he knew any strangers. He had a good sense of humor. He was a farmer -- loved his sheep. I just feel Dickinson County is a lot poorer without him."

Iowa Lakes Community College President Valerie Newhouse said Gottsche had been a "vibrant part" of the board of trustees since 2010.

"The college board of trustees and I are very sad about Dave's passing," Newhouse said. "Dave was a really intelligent person with a down to earth, common sense approach at everything he did. He would sit back and take everything in, then he would offer up suggestions. He was probably the biggest cheerleader for Iowa Lakes and everybody who worked here of anybody I've ever been around. He would call me all the time with names of prospective students, somebody he ran into somewhere and he'd told them about our programs. He'd give me the student's phone number. He was our biggest recruiter."

Gottsche served in the military from 1965 to 1967 before working on his Associate of Arts degree at Iowa Lakes from 1968 to 1970.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of South Dakota. That led to county work in December of 1972, when he landed a job as a part-time sanitarian.

In addition to work in Dickinson County, Gottsche helped organize the Lost Island Sanitary District in Palo Alto County.

In 1976, the zoning administrator in Dickinson County retired and Gottsche was hired as the successor. He eventually shifted to other roles in the 1980s and set up the purchasing department in Dickinson County. He was first elected to the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors in 1994.

Leupold said Gottsche's greatest asset in public service was his ability to work with people.

"Having worked in the planning and zoning office and then working as a supervisor, he knew a lot of people," he said. "Dave had the ability to diffuse situations before they got out of hand. Quite often, he could diffuse a situation so it wouldn't even come before the board. He just had that knack of working with people and knowing them and had a great ability to discuss matters with them."

"He lived life on his terms," Newhouse added. "He had a great zest for life. He had a firm belief in northwest Iowa and a firm commitment to this part of the state. I think after he got out of the military, he'd just travelled so much that he loved being here and this is where he wanted to spend his time. He loved everybody in the area. He was just a positive influence on everyone in the college."

Leupold said he will miss the relationship he built with Gottsche during their years on the board.

"He and I were kind of cut out of the same cloth," Leupold said. "We could see the humor in situations. We could also see the seriousness. We quite often discussed issues and we had a great respect for each other, which for me was humbling because he was quite a guy ... It was an honor to know him, to work with him, and to be called his friend."

Visitation will be after 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19 with the family present from 5-7 p.m. at Turner Jenness Funeral Home in Milford.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at First Lutheran Church in West Okoboji. Burial will be at Milford Cemetery.

Gottsche was the Democratic nominee this November for another four-year term on the board of supervisors. Dickinson County Auditor Lori Pedersen said the Democratic Party has until Aug. 31 to hold a special district election and bring a substitute name to put on the ballot. In the interim, a committee of three elected officials -- which includes Pedersen, Treasurer Kris Rowley, and Recorder Ann Ditsworth -- has 40 days to appoint someone to fill Gottsche's position until November's election.

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