Councilman Ed Dirck Retires After Twenty-Seven Years of Service
Dirck (far right) present at the signing of bill 1985 H.B. 817, where he was appointed as the first mayor of Maryland Heights. Dirck, Sr., (far left) is also pictured.
When Edwin Dirck, Jr. was just a young boy, he loved to play ball at the Fee Fee Ballfields. Feeling like a big league pro, he recalls the fond memories of playing with his team under the big lights. As he stepped foot on the mound, little did he know that one day he would be a major player in the creation of the city where his beloved ballfield was located.
Like cleat marks in the infield, an imprint left on Councilman Dirck's life was his father's political career. "I remember going door-to-door with my dad and taking trips into Jefferson City." Public service is in Dirck's bloodline. His father, Edwin Dirck, Sr., served in the Missouri House of Representatives and in the Missouri Senate.
In April 1970, Dirck purchased his first home in what was then an open stretch of St. Louis County. He and his wife, Cathy, loved Creve Coeur Park and felt that the area was a great place to raise their sons, Eddie and Matt. "Back then, there was no stoplight at Dorsett and McKelvey. It was just a two-lane road with a stop sign, a few gas stations and a large field."
After residing in the area for thirteen years, he and a group of concerned citizens began to toss around the idea of Maryland Heights' incorporation. "We felt that the people representing us weren't listening and the services they provided were not enough," stated Dirck. With the help of Missouri Representative Dewey Crump and the Maryland Heights Fire Protection District, the long fight to incorporate began. An ad-hoc committee was formed with Dirck serving as chairman. "We wanted a city that would work. I was a firm believer that good government was possible."
An "Incorporation Study for the Proposed City of Maryland Heights" was prepared by the committee volunteers and presented to the St. Louis County Council on May 24, 1984. The proposal laid out plans for a city comprised of what still exists today- a city administrator government form with a mayor and eight council members elected from four wards.
Despite gathering the more than 2,700 signatures needed to hold an election to incorporate, the residents' efforts were thwarted by the St. Louis County Council. A legal battle followed with the residents of Maryland Heights, led by Dirck and several others, refusing to give up. The circuit court ordered that the incorporation vote be held. On November 6, 1984, the voice of the residents prevailed with a 57% win to incorporate. County appeals prevented official incorporation for another seven months.
"I had been called to Clayton so many times," stated Dirck. "I was working at my family's printing shop and would have to run home, cleanup, and put a suit on." On May 9, 1985, Dirck did not have time to run home and arrived at St. Louis County stained with ink from the printing shop. During this particular County Council meeting, the City of Maryland Heights came into existence.
Dirck is extremely grateful for the amount of support the City received during his first months as mayor. He specifically recalls when St. Louis County called to tell him that they would no longer provide police service to the area. "We were brand new. We didn't have any money yet. I put in a call to Governor Ashcroft's office and they were able to provide assistance from the Highway Patrol until we could get our own police department ready. In the meantime, we purchased used police cars and held job interviews in event spaces donated by various businesses. We were humbled by all the support we received during those first couple months."
In the City's thirty-five year history, Councilman Dirck has been committed in representing residents for all but eight of them. The break was due to a company policy at the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), which was Dirck's employer at the time and had a policy that did not allow employees to hold elected positions. Once the policy had changed, Dirck was back on the dais.
In Dirck's twenty-seven years of service, he has chaired nearly every committee, served as pres pro tem numerous times and has seen Maryland Heights grow and flourish. "We've come so far," he stated in an interview. "Retiring is hard, but I couldn't be more proud to have served the residents and businesses of Maryland Heights." Dirck plans on focusing more on his family including his wife, two sons and four grandchildren. "My wife will get to see me more, but it's time to let different folks bring in new ideas."
When asked what makes a good council person, his reply was simple: "One who is willing to listen to all sides, someone who can set their personal feelings aside to provide the best and highest quality service to Maryland Heights with the least amount of red tape, and one who is not afraid to compromise."
Councilmembers Dirck and Baker serve residents at the St. Patrick's Luncheon.
Dirck's love for the Maryland Heights community is clear and his excitement for new and future projects is contagious. He cited the Community Center, Centene Community Ice Center and the ongoing renovations to the Fee Fee ballfields from his youth as major city accomplishments that will enrich the lives of children in Maryland Heights for years to come.
"While Councilman Dirck will be missed, we congratulate him on his retirement and thank him for all his efforts in making Maryland Heights the city that it is today," stated Mayor Mike Moeller. "We would not be where we are without his leadership."
Mayor Moeller (left) and Councilman Dirck (right) in the late eighties.