I want to talk this week of community and Andy Boss. Both were celebrated last night at the kick-off of a fundraising campaign for Park Square’s new Andy Boss Thrust Stage. The event was held at our own Park Midway Bank and hosted by bank CEO Rick Beeson. Rick, VP Terri Banaszewski and the rest of their staff deserve high praise for their hospitality and for giving the St. Paul community a chance to celebrate Andy’s amazing contributions to our city’s life.

Four of the six living St. Paul mayors were on hand to honor Andy. Mayors Cohen, Scheibel, Latimer and Chris Coleman praised him in person, while Norm Coleman and Randy Kelly sent messages of appreciation for Andy’s lifelong commitment to building community. Unfortunately, Andy himself could not attend due to health issues, but the whole thing was video-taped so he will be able to enjoy it from his hospital bed where he is reportedly resting comfortably.

There were many kind words, illustrative anecdotes and good humor, but I think Mayor Scheibel said it best when he described Andy’s ability to bring all parties together around a cause or initiative. Scheibel summed it up by referencing the current polarized state of our governing bodies, and then stating that what we need now “is more Andy’s.” Indeed.

The impact of Andy in St. Paul can be seen in the success of numerous organizations he was involved in. A list was unrolled from the bank’s 2nd floor to the first containing the names of the nearly 60 local non-profits where Andy served as a founder, director, officer, funder and many times, all four, as he did for our local community foundation. That list would be tripled if you added the title of informal advisor, because Andy was extremely connected and many people sought his counsel for a wide variety of causes. Needless to say, he was a mentor to many who have done so much for this city.

That brings me to the heart of Andy’s “genius,” if I may call it that, and I can almost see him cringing as I write that word. To my mind, Andy’s success is tied to two main attributes. First, he understands what it takes to make a healthy community. Second, his agenda is simply to solve whatever problems stand in the way of that. I should add a third - this is the challenge when describing Andy, there’s always another – Andy likes people (his rolodex is legend) and believes in their potential to make a difference. He speaks to people’s better angels and finds ways to bring even adversaries together for the common good.

If he had been able to attend last night, he would have had a sparkle in his eye as he caught up on the progress of organizations, initiatives and people critical to St. Paul’s success. His familiar smile would have helped to connect people around critical causes that need support. Andy would have reveled in these opportunities, because he knows that even in this era of ever-increasing communication technologies, the best way to build the trust that leads to success is face to face, handshake to handshake, relationship to relationship.

That’s what Mayor Scheibel meant about the need for more people like Andy. If Andy had been able to attend last night, he would have been lost, not in the warmth of the moment although he would certainly have appreciated it, but in the possibilities for the future.

After we honored Andy with our annual Spirit of the Park Award on July 4th, 2008, we were walking across Langford Park amidst the people and community he so loves. In trying to express my appreciation for his many contributions, I offered that he had done a lot for a lot of people. He responded in his typical self-effacing way by telling me his secret. “Jon," he said, "I didn’t do much, just made a lot of friends and introduced them to each other.”

Okay Andy, if you say so…your secret is safe with me. Thanks for that friendship and God bless you.

 

Calendar

Oct. 25   7:30pm, Hopkins High field, Como Boys Soccer play in State quarterfinals

Oct. 26   5:30-8pm, StAP Elementary’s 17th annual Fall Festival & Silent Auction

Oct. 27   10am–4pm, Gibbs Farm Halloween

Oct. 28   4pm, Music in the Park Series Concert: internationally acclaimed sisters Baiba and Lauma Skride - violin and piano, make their TC recital debut

 

That’s all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.