Dick Hayden: The Unknown Melissa Councilman

Wilson Gustaveson , Staff Writer

Richard “Dick” Hayden is 82 years young and has served on the Melissa City Council for three years. He now suffers from skin cancer, but is still a proud Melissa citizen. He was born in New York and worked for Swift Bros. Meat Packing Company for all of his professional career. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Hayden and here are some Q and A’s from the interview.

Q: Where were you born?

A: I was born in Watertown, New York

Q: What brought you to Melissa?

A: [My wife and I] moved a lot and eventually, we moved to our dream house on the lake in Tyler, Texas. We thought we would be there forever, but five years later we decided to go on an [LDS] Mission to England.  While we were gone, our son built us a house in the beautiful mountains in Colorado. So, we lived there but it started to become too much, so then we moved to Melissa.

Q: What decisions did you vote for while on the City Council?

A: So there was this company from Missouri that wanted to build some affordable housing on [Highway] 121. A couple of us on the city council did a lot of research and thought they were really good and some people were really [against] it, and I think they scared some people on the council, but there were two of us who voted for them. It didn’t pass but I think it should have, but I think that was really important decision.  

Q: How long have you been on the city council?

A: Well I was on the board for three years and I was on the City council for 3.

Q: What got you interested in being on the City council?

A: Well I had a lot of time on my hands because I was retired and with my business background I thought it would be a good fit, so I applied and I was accepted onto one of the boards. Then Bobbye Fischer and Amy Burchett recommended that I should try and make it onto the board, so I had some signs made and I campaigned, and on the first vote nobody won there was no overwhelming vote, so I had a run off with a lady who was way more well-known than I was, and I beat her. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked with a group of people as well as I worked with the members of the board and city council.

Q: Who did you look up to as a child?

A: I was born in 1934, in the middle of the Great Depression, and World War II and so I had a lot of role models. I had my grandparents and my parents. We had people in the government. We had President Roosevelt to look up to.

Q: Why did you move around so much as a kid?

A: Well, my dad graduated from Colgate University in 1930 with a degree in physics, he was promised a good job at the General Liquor Corporation, but there was no job, because of the depression. So he taught school and one day in 1943 we saw an advertisement in one the trade magazines: “Wanted scientists to work on project X. The project will help with the win the war.” So he applied and he went to work on the Manhattan project. We moved to Oakridge and that’s actually quite a story because when we moved there the population was 16,000. When the bomb was dropped two years later, the population was over 75,000.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of Melissa?

A: We really like it here because they have good schools and they have a good government. People are friendly and the city is growing. I think it has a bright future.

Mr. Hayden is an amazing man. He has been extremely blessed to have such incredible experiences throughout his life. The time I spent with this wise man was very inspiring and I feel I just scraped the surface. If you have a few extra minutes and you are itching to hear a tale or two about the history of our country, state or town, stop by Mr. Hayden’s house. He’ll be favored to welcome you.