Recalling a steady community leaderDan Guider provided the steady, committed hand that helped bring early visions of the community to fruition, say former colleagues and friends of Woodbury’s second mayor.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Take a look around in Woodbury and Dan Guider’s legacy is ever present.
Whether it’s the mix of commercial and residential developments that have sprung forth over the last 20-plus years, or the more than 100 miles of park trails that wrap their way around local neighborhoods and lakes, Guider provided the steady, committed hand that helped bring early visions of the community to fruition, say former colleagues and friends of Woodbury’s second mayor.
Guider died Saturday morning in hospice care after just weeks earlier family found out he was suffering from liver cancer. He was 66.
He hadn’t been well since last October, his wife Joan said. But before his health started to take a turn for the worse last fall, he was relatively healthy for the last several years after suffering a serious stroke in 2002.
“He sometimes had a hard time conversing on the fly, but he was a pretty sharp listener, Joan Guider said, “And he loved to spend time with his close friends during Monday Night Football.
“They would always discuss what was going on in the city, even after all those years after he finished his service with the city. The football game was on, but that was secondary to the discussion.”
Leadership forged in service
Guider, a Vietnam veteran and University of Minnesota alumnus moved to the Woodbury in the late 1960’s after returning from military service. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel in a battle with the Viet Cong and as a result had a very distinctive, gravelly voice, said longtime friend Joe Spolidoro.
“His values were kind of forged in that fire, and as a result he came back (from military service) with a real set of leadership skills and clear vision,” Spolidoro said.
“And he was a real community guy. I think that’s what drew him to his long career with the city.”
Not long after establishing his home in Woodbury, Guider joined the local Jaycees, an influential civic service group at the time.
Longtime Woodbury civic leader Dick Stafford said Guider’s voice and the leadership stood out right way.
“Dan struck me as a soft spoken man of few words,” Stafford said. “But when he used them, everybody listened.”
Guider was elected to the Woodbury City Council in 1974 and served in that capacity until he was elected mayor in 1982 when he replaced the retiring Orville Bielenberg, who many consider one of the founding fathers of Woodbury.
During Guider’s tenure as mayor, Woodbury grew from a mainly agricultural town of 7,500 into a Twin Cities suburban community of more than 20,000.
Spolidoro served as a city planning commissioner for several years when Guider was mayor.
“You won’t find Dan taking much credit for what was accomplished during his time with the city,” Spolidoro said. “But there is all kinds of evidence of Dan handing credit out for things that were accomplished. He just had this knack for building relationships between people and letting those relationships help build the community.”
Like any town, Woodbury had its share of growing pains, but Guider was a solid leader during those years, said Dwight Picha, who has been Woodbury planning director since 1977.
“He was a very positive person and provided that type of leadership with city staff,” said Picha, who first got to know Guider as a city council member. At that time the city did not have an administrator and as a result city council members had more direct responsibility over specific departments within the city. Guider oversaw community development, which was fitting, Picha said.
“If there were issues that happened, he always had a positive outlook on how to get things accomplished, especially on development issues,” Picha said.
Love for community
When Guider first campaigned for mayor he expressed a desire to bring more retail opportunities to the city, and as such the Dayton-Hudson Company attempted in the early 1980s to bring a Woodbury version of Southdale to the community. The plan did not pan out, but in its place, Guider worked with Robert Muir Co. to allow the developer to start on its plans for what would eventually become Woodbury Village Marketplace.
During Guider’s tenure in the mayor’s chair the city also saw a heavy focus on its long-term plan for finding the right mix of burgeoning residential and commercial, along with parks and trails.
Picha said Guider is to be given credit for the development of what is now the city’s economic development commission and for taking Woodbury into its next important phase.
“When (Orville Bielenberg) was mayor he really brought the community together for the first time,” Picha said. “When Dan took over it was more action oriented. He really had that entrepreneurial spirit of getting economic development programs started to help the city grow.”
Not long after the he helped break ground on the second Woodbury City Hall that still stands today, Guider decided to hang up his hat on city service.
Spolidoro said Guider was intensively courted by local Republican leaders to run for state office, but turned them down, stating that chapter of his life was over.
“He just said he had made a decision to shift focus and wanted to spend more time with his family and raising his son,” Spolidoro said. He bought a family cabin up in Wisconsin and spent a lot of time with family up there.”
Although Guider was no longer publicly active in city affairs after 1990, Picha said it was evident his heart never left city hall.
“Whenever he made an appearance he was just extremely supportive of the community and the people who worked here,” Picha said.
After he retired from 3M, Guider spent a lot of time raising his son Daniel, who is currently serving in the Marines. Before suffering his stroke Guider volunteered many hours every week working with the RCIA program at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, his wife Joan said.
“All I can say is that he was a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Joan Guider said. “And he loved his community.”
Services for Dan Guider will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Ambrose Catholic Church. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and one hour before mass Thursday at the church.