Mayor John 'Jack' Powell

Mayor John 'Jack' Powell

The public is invited to attend celebration of life services to honor Mayor John (Jack) Powell. The services will be held Sunday and Monday at the United Church of Christ Congregational Church, 226 East Main, Vermillion.

Powell died April 20, 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral services could not be held at the time.

On Sunday, June 20, visitation with Powell’s family will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. and a prayer service will be held at 7 p.m. at the church.

On Monday, June 21, which happens to be Powell’s birthday, a service of remembrance will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the church. Following the service, the celebration of the mayor’s life will continue with lunch and social time at The Eagle’s Club, 114 West Main, Vermillion.

Current CDC guidelines will be observed at both Sunday’s and Monday’s services. The services will also be live-streamed on the United Church of Christ Congregational Church’s Facebook page.

Powell, a retired University of South Dakota professor, had served the City of Vermillion for nearly 20 years, as both a member of the city council and as mayor. He was in the midst of his third term as mayor.

“He was extremely dedicated to this community. He may not have been the guy out there wanting to give speeches, but he was the guy behind the scenes. He wanted the very best for the community, the school system – and maybe that goes back to early on, from his going from a high school teacher to being a college professor,” said City Manager John Prescott shortly after the mayor’s death in April 2020. “He always wanted the best for the school system and obviously for our university. He was just very dedicated to the community and just passionate about the success of Vermillion.”

Powell was elected to his first term as mayor in 2010, after serving three terms on the city council. He was re-elected as mayor in 2014 and 2018, and was mid-way through his third term as the city’s mayor at his passing.

Powell received a bachelor’s degree from Morningside College, a master’s degree from the University of South Dakota and a doctorate from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He retired in 2007 after teaching at USD for 45 years.

Powell played a strong role in many of the progressive developments being enjoyed by city residents today.

He was a strong advocate in 2008 of constructing power lines, at a cost of $8 million, to the Spirit Mound substation north of the city. The project was put to a public vote and overwhelmingly approved by voters in January 2009.

It is estimated that his project may provide a positive return to the community for over 40 years and provide millions of dollars of savings.

Powell was a member of the city council that helped provide funding and other leadership when a community committee crafted a plan for the construction of Vermillion’s city hall, which was dedicated in 2009, a year before he was elected mayor.

Powell, as mayor, played a role in the development of a funding plan that made the expansion of the city’s library, known today as the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library, a reality.

Prescott remembers he and the mayor meeting with Siegrist’s financial planner to learn that she wanted funds from her estate to help pay for the library’s improvements.

Powell, as mayor, also oversaw the development of a funding plan that included not only the public approval of a bond issue but also public approval of a malt beverage tax to help fund the construction of Vermillion’s still somewhat new Prentis Plunge aquatic center.

“He was just a very, very sharp individual who was very dedicated to our community and doing everything he could to help us prosper,” the city manager told the Plain Talk in April 2020, shortly after Powell’s death.


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