Daniel Leitl was born to Donald & Margret Leitl. He graduated from Park Falls High School in 1987 and later earned an AA in Liberal Arts from West Hills Community College in Lemoore, California. The first thing Dan did after high school graduation, though, was join the Navy in August of 1987. His next 20 years were spent working on F/A-18 aircraft that deployed in 1989, 1990-91, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2004, and 2005 on several different aircraft carriers. “I deployed in support of combat operations for Desert Storm in 1991 and for operations in Bosnia in 1992 and again for Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005,” Dan added. It was in the service where Dan feels his greatest work contributions have been made. “The things we did affected things on a global scale; we shaped history. It may not have seemed like it at the time and things had to fall into place further on down the line from what we on the decks did, but we were a cog on the wheel, and had things broken there, that would have had consequences down the line.”
Retiring from his military career in 2007, Dan reflected on some of the most interesting things he has done thanks to the Navy. “For someone that grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, to have circumnavigated the world is interesting. I have been as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as southwestern Australia. I have been through the Suez Canal more than a dozen times and set foot on four different continents,” Dan reminisced.
During his military career, in 1995, he married Melissa Burl from Saranac Lake, New York. They had two children, Douglas and Kaitlyn. After living in Florida from 2007 to 2009, Dan moved his family back to Park Falls. His children graduated from Park Falls High School. Douglas currently works at Park Falls Hardwoods, and Kaitlyn is attending college at UW-Parkside in Kenosha. She is pursuing a career in law enforcement. Unfortunately, Dan’s wife, Melissa, passed on last year, so he currently lives alone with his two dogs, Jake and Elwood, and his daughter’s two cats.
Acting as both a cook and waiter, Dan has found himself busy at the Pal Café for the last few years. He continues to work there on the weekends while serving as the newest mayor of the City of Park Falls, being elected to the office this April.
Dan was motivated to run for the position of mayor for a couple of reasons. “One of the main reasons is I thought the city needed a change in leadership,” he said. Dan feels that when someone is in office for many years, the person may not look for new solutions to old problems, be too set in ways of doing things, and the thought of change could make the person so nervous that complacency sets in. “I care deeply about Park Falls, and thought I could bring a new perspective to the city government, and I want to push Park Falls to what I remember best about it when I was younger. I also have the advantage of being semi-retired and have the time to devote to the position of mayor,” Dan explained.
Even though he knows he may be looking at things with rose-colored glasses, Mayor Leitl has many high hopes and goals for the City of Park Falls. Remembering the many businesses that used to be in place downtown, the large Fourth of July celebrations, Flambeau Rama celebrations, and a very active community, he is hopeful that atmosphere can be created once again. He hopes that good manufacturing businesses, which could provide jobs for growing families, will want to come to Park Falls to help the city grow. “I would like to see the community take pride in Park Falls and show that pride by taking an active part in putting Park Falls back on the map as a great place to live or visit. City Hall can take the lead in that by working with the community groups we have and supporting them and actively promoting the groups and events.”
An aging infrastructure and aging population are the greatest challenges of the area as seen by the new mayor. While part of the infrastructure is currently being fixed, there is more to address. As for the aging population, he realizes that causes a lot more people to be on fixed incomes, which can prevent people from maintaining their houses. “There is no quick fix for any of these things. We will continue to work on our infrastructure shortcomings, but, of course, that is expensive, so we will seek out low interest loans and grants to help with that. We are seeking out new businesses to bring to town that hopefully will help both with bringing in new people and helping with our tax base. We are also looking to work with our residents and regional organizations to get no interest deferred loans for home improvement as we have many homes in the area that are in various states of disrepair.”
One thing that Dan would like to see is a sense of civic pride in more of the residents. “We need to work to clean our streets and yards, support our local businesses, and support various events in the community.” He stated that everyone needs to take ownership of the city so it can be cared for and improved. ”That is not going to be something that city hall can dictate,” he reminded. “It is going to have to come from the citizens. And for that to happen, we are going to need to work together. We can’t have room for egos and playing the blame game. We will need to listen to the ideas of everyone and sort out what will work and what won’t. If something starts slow, we need to stick with it and see it through to success, but at the same time, we need to know when to cut our losses on those things that don’t work.”
Dan wants to engage all ages to invigorate Park Falls. “I think our greatest strength is both our potential and our history. For those of us that have lived through what could be considered the heyday of Park Falls, we know how great our little city can be. If we talk with some of the older residents and listen to what used to be,….we have the potential to bring some of that back. We have fantastic natural resources all around us. We have experienced people who we can tap for the knowledge we have. We need to get our young people to want to be involved and help with outreach to other youth.” Dan added that the area needs to engage the youth, finding jobs and activities for them, thus giving them reasons to stay in Park Falls and invest in its future.
Dan’s best advice for young people who are looking to pursue their goals would be not to doubt themselves. “You may not be able to accomplish everything that you want to do but you still need to fight to do what you can. Take the victories where you can and learn from your defeats. Always remain true to yourself. Don’t let others change your convictions. You know what you believe, what you know is right, and that is no less valid than what others think.”
Aside from his mayoral duties, Dan is currently commander of the VFW Post 6903. That group has tried to be more involved in the community in recent years, having a Fourth of July breakfast every year. They also installed six new flagpoles in Nola Cemetery for the Wisconsin, POW/MIA, and service flags.
On a more personal level, in the next ten years, Dan sees himself as mostly retired. “I will be just shy of 60, and I want to travel more on my terms and not the military’s. I have never been to Africa and would love to go on safari there.”
Photo: Submitted by Mayor Leitl, City of Park Falls
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[Edited by My Price County Administrator on Jun 29, 2017 at 07:22 PM]