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Coastal Voices: ‘Dapper Dutch’ leaves legacy of honesty

It was early evening on the first Tuesday in June. The results came trickling in. After 6 months of banging the phones and door bells, fighting clean and hard, it appeared we had a shot at winning.

 We looked around at each other, half giddy in disbelief that a former addict could get elected district attorney. I sat there with my dear friend, Dutch Dremann. His artistry on the dials and needles at KCRE had crafted our radio spots. I recall telling Dutch how after getting shellacked in ’06, I doubted our chances. He replied that we didn’t lose in ’06 either because we never quit; we played the game right; and the only one who ever beats us is us. Many knew him as the “voice” of our campaign, but to us he was its heart.

 The halcyon high of that night will remain forever. I trust that’s the way Dale Trigg felt a couple Tuesdays ago. I wish him congratulations and courage for the badly needed course correction he promised throughout his campaign.

 As for me, the 27 months I was actively in office were some of the best of my life. We promised to send bad folks who harmed people or sold poison to prison and to those who needed help an extended hand. We promised to protect our officers in the street and at Pelican Bay. We promised to do away with soft plea bargains and tried more cases, with an 80 percent conviction rate that surpassed any former administration, while honoring a promise to a grieving mother to put the man who butchered her son in prison for his natural life. I believe we delivered on those promises.

As regards my ongoing State Bar case, I apologize to this community I love for an error in judgment that cost me my ability to finish out my term. Kurt Melchior and his legal team’s commitment to integrity and principle, while dedicating hundreds of pro bono hours in my defense and excusing a seven-figure tab, has maintained my belief in decency and the best of what my profession should represent. I believe we will see justice in the Supreme Court. 

The past year has been one of contemplation and introspection. I think back to the hundreds of people who wrote letters or traveled on their own time and dime to testify for me and realized, in the true coin of the realm, that which George Bailey found in Bedford Falls — what a blessed man I am.

Which leads me back to my dear friend Dutch Dremann, who will be put to rest today. Many of you knew him as “Dapper Dutch” on the radio. While in the Sutter Coast hallway, a young nurse told me how much Dutch and “Sweet Ol’ Bill” Stamps meant to her childhood. When asked why, she replied, “Because I could always believe in what they said.” Not a bad legacy.

I remember Dutch once talking about the word “relentless” and how life wasn’t about getting knocked down but about getting back up again.

I recall my Dad once asking me, “If you strike out two of every three times you get up to the plate, but on the third time hit a single, where does that get you?” He laughed when I said, “first base?” “No,” he replied, “Cooperstown.” 

I don’t know about batting lifetime .333, but something I took from my old man and Dutch this past year was that you strike out. You ground out, pop up and people throw at you. But you keep getting back up to the plate and taking your cuts — no matter how dark things look — and eventually you hit a couple singles; you catch a few walks; you see a few passed balls; your teammates carry you. And even though you never make it to Cooperstown, you get back to that place the game is all about — a place called home.

Today, because of Dutch, my Dad and this community, I can echo what a man said at Yankee Stadium’s home plate on July 4, 1939: “Some people say I got a bad break. But today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Amen.

 

Jon Alexander is presently a social worker in the Yurok Tribe Child Welfare Department.

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