Oakdale City Council is dragging its feet

What’s so hard about making a decision on a name?

I don’t pretend to know what the inner workings of the bureaucracies of government are.

I don’t pretend to have any idea about how decisions that have to go through those bureaucracies come about.

I do know, as one works from the local level, to county, to state, to region and up to the federal levels, that bureaucracies become larger.

The larger the bureaucracy, the more difficult for a decision to become reality.

Oakdale is big and growing bigger. But can there really be that much bureaucratic red tape?

For whatever reason, Oakdale has found it next to impossible to make a decision on adding a name.

It was back in mid-April that Oakdale adult softball guru Hughie Russell was suddenly and sadly swept from the scene.

For years - perhaps only his immediate family knows how many - Russell built and fashioned the softball diamonds in Richard Walton Park.

What is going to follow will certainly bring about a response or two. But that is OK, because Hughie is walking with me and will cover my back.

He did things ‘My way’

Russell started from scratch - literally - and fashioned adult softball leagues. There were men’s teams. There were women’s teams. There were co-ed leagues.

Russell provided recreational opportunities for men and women of Oakdale and the surrounding areas to continue to compete and have fun throughout the summer.

When summer was over, Russell continued to supply further opportunities with “fall” leagues.

“I don’t care how good you are. I don’t care how much you thought about how good of an athlete you were. Everyone will get old and begin to lose a little. Sooner or later, you will come here to play slow pitch. All of you jocks who think you are so good and that it will never happen. Sooner or later you will be at this level,” Russell once told me - or something to that effect.

By hook or crook, Russell built the softball and sports complex at Richard Walton Park.

The area was expanded to what it is today, simply because of Russell.

Along the way Russell wanted - maybe even demanded - many things.

He would twist a few arms. He would cajole. He would coerce. He would antagonize, pressure, ignite and motivate, whatever it took, until another softball diamond or two was built.

Officials at every level would come under the scrutiny of Russell. If you didn’t agree with him, that was OK. Go ahead and get angry, but let’s get the job done.

Russell’s philosophy was, “If it will help the adult softball program, it will be OK. Let’s do it!”

He gave credit

where it was due

He knew it didn’t happen without help. Russell was one who always gave credit where it was due. If something new was added because of the Oakdale Recreation Department, he told you about it.

And, he told you who it was who did the grading, hauled the dirt, erected the backstops, obtained and spread the agra-lime, along with a myriad of other details and he almost certainly personally saw to it that it was done to “Russell” specifications.

In short, the sporting fields at Richard Walton Park can be directly hitched to Hughie Russell. Everything there is a result of an idea or two, put forward by Russell then carried to completion.

Sure, I loved the guy. He told me when I was right. He told me when I was wrong. He smiled. He joked. He was serious. He was huge in Oakdale and he never got enough credit.

Now it’s time to give him a little of that recognition!

It started as a field

of rocks and grew

An idea has been advanced (it was shortly after Hughie left the scene back in April) that the sporting fields in Richard Walton Park be named the “Hughie Russell Sports Complex.”

“Actually,” said life-long Oakdale resident Mike Howes, “there was talk before he died, that something should be done. After he passed away more people came up with ideas. Some people suggested a plaque. That’s not good enough. We want to erect a sign. We don’t want to change the image of Richard Walton Park, we want to add to that image.”

Originally Howes was told, “We are going to do something.”

“We waited for the city to do something. Now we don’t see that happening. We plan on writing a letter. We want to get it on the agenda and hopefully we will get a response,” said the 1979 Tartan grad, who has participated in the Oakdale softball program every Friday night for the last 20 years.

Howes continued about his former youth coach, saying, “It’s time. A plaque on the wall of the concession stand is not good enough.”

Anyone who knew Hughie and knew what he did for the community - whether you always agreed with him or not - would agree, naming the sporting complex in honor of Russell is the right thing to do.

So, how much red tape is involved in that?

Apparently the Oakdale City Council (I assume that it is up to them) has found a way, in a bureaucratic manner, to put the decision on hold.

There has been mention of some city ordinance against naming sites after people.

Hey, how big is the Oakdale bureaucracy? Ignore the ordinance, bypass it, or change it.

If it’s money, let someone know. The thousands upon thousands who through the years have benefited from Russell’s efforts, and who will continue into the future, will be glad to toss in a buck or two.

When they mentioned to the late John Mariucci a few years ago up in Brainerd that they wanted a new building as headquarters at “The Confidence Learning Center” to benefit mentally retarded persons, Mariucci’s reply was simple (kind of like what Hughie might have said): “It will cost a million dollars? That’s easy. We’ll just get a million people to throw in a buck a piece.”

What the heck, Oakdale, get it done! Someone make a motion, get it passed and put up the sign: “HUGHIE RUSSELL SPORTS COMPLEX.”

Just make sure it “has two ‘s’s and two ‘l’s”, for everyone to see and appreciate a little, the guy who made it happen.

Comment Here