It was difficult, at times, for city staff, Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise and members of the Vermillion City Council to keep their emotions in check during city’s April 19 evening meeting as council members unanimously agreed to name City Hall’s large second story conference room in honor of the late Mayor Jack Powell.
Powell passed away on April 20, 2020; the resolution was approved a day short of the one-year anniversary of his death.
He began serving as a city council member representing the Northwest ward in 2000. He was elected mayor in 2010. Powell was subsequently re-elected to serve as mayor in 2014 and 2018.
Since the City Hall building opened in March 2009, the name for the second floor conference room has simply been the Large Conference room. The smaller second floor conference room was named for City Hall architect Owen Mamura who passed away in November 2008 while the building was in the later stages of construction.
In January 2013, the city council adopted a naming policy that provides guidelines for naming or renaming of facilities but notes the final decision is ultimately up to the city council. The policy suggests that an individual have been deceased for a year prior to the naming taking place. The policy also suggests that when naming a city facility for an individual that their significance and good reputation have been accepted as part of Vermillion’s, South Dakota’s and/or the United States’ history.
A plaque or appropriate informational wall item will be developed to note Powell’s contributions to the city government and the community.
Lisa Ketcham, Powell’s widow, noted how she addressed city council one day short of a year earlier to inform them of her husband’s death.
“I told you at that time that Jack was very proud of all of you and all of the things you achieved together,” she said. “I also said that while we grieve together through this significant loss, he wanted us to carry on and to continue to do great work for this community.”
Ketcham told city council and staff members that she knows “Jack would be very proud of how we have carried on even through the most challenging of times. Jack would also be very proud knowing that his memory will be forever held in City Hall – the people’s house – the people whom he so unselfishly and tirelessly served for many years through the naming of the John E. ‘Jack’ Powell Conference Room.
“Thank you all for honoring Jack in this way,” she said, fighting back tears. “It means the world to me and to our family as it would to him and I will be forever grateful for this special recognition of him. Jack Powell is smiling down on us tonight.”
“Thank you, Lisa,” Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise said. “We look forward to being able to install the plaque in the room and celebrate together, too, in the very near future.”