An 'Iconic' Leader
Duax remembered for service to city he loved
Eau Claire lost one of its most recognizable, enthusiastic, and thoughtful civic leaders when City Councilman David Duax died April 17 in Eau Claire.
Duax, 71, wore many hats in the community over the years, most recently as a City Council member since 2005. Duax was known both for his deep knowledge of Eau Claire and its history and for his commitment to improving the city.
City Council President Kerry Kincaid lauded him for his “unprecedented” service, both on the City Council, the County Board (which he once chaired), and on numerous state and local committees and commissions. “Council Member Duax was a dedicated public servant, with a passion for his hometown,” Kincaid said. “His legacy will have a lasting impact on our community.”
“Council Member Duax was a dedicated public servant, with a passion for his hometown. His legacy will have a lasting impact on our community.” – Kerry Kincaid, Eau Claire City Council president
Other council colleagues also honored Duax as a civic leader and friend. “Dave had a true appreciation of being a public servant – of trying to solve problems to make our community and our society a better place,” Councilman Andrew Werthmann wrote on Facebook. “He saw government as a force for good – and that’s why he served.”
As Duax told Volume One in a 2009 candidate interview, “We need to think boldly, and out of the box. We should not just talk about ideas, but realize the ‘urgency of the present.’ ” With his statesmanlike manner and penchant for public pronouncements and insightful inquiries during council meetings, Duax embodied such boldness, as well as civility and respect for government institutions and processes.
Upon hearing of Duax’s death, fellow Councilman Eric Larsen wrote that Duax was “an iconic public servant and leader.” A few days earlier, when Duax was moved to hospice care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Larsen noted Duax’s long experience both on the City Council and County Board. “It is very sad to see his service come to an end,” Larsen wrote. “He was a strong leader to the end and I know he would have gladly served another 30 years if he could.”
After an unsuccessful bid for a state Assembly seat as a Republican in 1972, Duax served on the Eau Claire County Board from 1974 to 1983. Between 1987 and 1994 he held a variety of posts in the administration of Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, including director of the state Office of Health Care Information, administrator of the Division of Youth Services, and administrator of the Division of Management Services in the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Later, he was director of development and director of communications at Sacred Heart Hospital.
State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who served on the City Council with Duax and said he’d known him most of his life, spoke on the floor of the state Assembly about Duax’s legacy. “David has always worked across party lines,” Wachs said April 14. “He’s been a standup guy, a great friend, and a champion for the city of Eau Claire.”
Although he was hospitalized following a brain bleed in January, Duax was re-elected without opposition to another three-year term on the City Council April 7. During his decade on the council, Duax advocated for downtown redevelopment, promoted the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, and authored a citywide smoking ban, among many other things. The City Council will appoint a replacement to fill Duax’s council seat until a new election can be held.
A visitation will be 3-7pm Friday, May 1, at Bethesda Lutheran Brethren Church, 123 W. Hamilton Ave., while a memorial service will be at 11am the following day. Instead of flowers, memorials may be given in the form of donations in Duax’s name to a charity of the donor’s choice.