Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, who led city through flood fights, dies

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Dennis Walaker, the mayor of Fargo, N.D. who led his city through several years of near-catastrophic flooding of the Red River, died Tuesday at his home after a battle with kidney cancer. He was 73.

The Fargo Forum reports that Walaker was in the hospital over the weekend due to a reaction to his chemotherapy, and checked out of the hospital earlier in the day. He died unexpectedly at home about 7 p.m., according to Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney, who was with Walaker when he died.

Walaker first began working for the city of Fargo in 1974, when he was hired as a civil engineer. He was the city's operations manager in 1997, when the Fargo-Moorhead area suffered through the worst flood on record at the time. Walaker was widely praised for his handling of the flood then.

He was first elected mayor in 2006, and became somewhat of a folk hero for his leadership during the record-setting flood in 2009 when he resisted pressure from federal officials to evacuate the city.

Former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan called Walaker “a big man with a big heart,” according to the Associated Press.

“He was a tower of strength during very dangerous and difficult times for Fargo,” Dorgan said. “It isn’t an overstatement that his good judgment and strong leadership had a lot to do with saving the city.”

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple released a statement expressing is condolences.

“Denny has been an outstanding mayor for many years, and has overseen his city during a period of remarkable growth," said Dalrymple in a statement. "He will always be remembered for his leadership and his skill in holding back the Red River during major flooding. Our prayers are with his family and his many friends.”

Walaker, who won re-election in 2010 and again this year, also led Fargo's flood mitigation efforts, which have significantly reduced the chances of major damage from future flooding.

Mahoney, the deputy mayor, will take over Walaker's duties on a temporary basis. He said city officials will meet Monday to discuss the process for choosing a new mayor. The city's charter requires a special election to fill the vacancy, according to the Forum.

The Forum has collected reactions to Walaker's death, which you can read here. The paper has also produced a photo gallery of Walaker's career with the city of Fargo.

Next Up

alphaMPD

Minneapolis police seeks public help finding missing woman

A 63-year-old woman has been missing since Tuesday

coronavirus testing

Don't want to talk to a contact tracer? MN debuts online option after positive test

The department says the survey will allow its staff to keep track of more cases at a faster pace

Family Dollar

Money Gal Coaching: 12 things you are wasting your money on

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

police lights

Three teens charged in Minneapolis robberies

The incidents took place on Saturday in Minneapolis.

covid-19, coronavirus, ppe

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, January 21

It's the first time in exactly four months that Minnesota has had fewer than 100 COVID patients in intensive care.

icy roads, bad roads

Girl, 16, killed in crash with semi on icy Minnesota road

The crash happened in Dodge County around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

police lights

Road rage incident sees driver punch out man's window, punch him in face

The incident happened in Waite Park Wednesday morning.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 7.01.24 AM

Minneapolis will recover $100K in costs connected to 2019 Trump rally

The Target Center operator said it'll pay the costs over three years.

Jacob Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirms run for reelection

He has faced criticism over the city's response to George Floyd's death.

Kirk Cousins

Coller: How far away are the Vikings from playing championship weekend?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

Related