Susie Rodenbeck, right, received the Dunedin Historical Museum’s 2013 History Maker of the Year Award. She has been volunteering in the city for about 38 years. Ricka Freeman, chairman of the History Maker’s Committee, presented the award.
Susie Rodenbeck moved 17 times in 20 years, but it’s evident that Dunedin has been her favorite place to live, and the place where she has strived to make a difference.
In fact, Dunedin Historical Society honored her with a History Maker of the Year Award.
A native of Bremerhaven, Germany, Rodenbeck has been a resident of Dunedin for about 40 years and has volunteered for various organizations in the area for nearly that long.
While her late husband, Eric, served as a colonel in the United States Army Rodenbeck volunteered in officers’ wives’ clubs.
“Which was what most wives did back in those days. We didn’t work outside the house,” she said.
The Rodenbecks moved to the United States in 1954, settling in Williamsburg, Va., and then Alexandria. Happenstance, she said, prompted the Rodenbecks to move to Dunedin, encouraged by friends in the military who lived in Clearwater.
They built a house on an empty lot on Harborview Drive. Shortly after, Rodenbeck joined the League of Women Voters because of her interest in politics.
In the 1970s, on the advice of a friend, she began serving on an area environmental quality committee, which then consisted only of a few people.
“I did it and it kind of went from there and the city formed the bicentennial committee, prior to the 1976 bicentennial. That consisted of representatives from different civic organizations and churches in Dunedin to come up with a suggestion to commemorate this bicentennial. And that was the pool that’s still there. It was named the bicentennial pool,” she said.
In the 1980s, Rodenbeck served on the city’s Board of Adjustment and Appeals for 18 years and was chairman for 10 years. In 2006, she was appointed to the city’s Charter Review Committee.
In essence Rodenbeck wanted to have a hand in shaping Dunedin’s future.
“I think it’s very difficult to make a difference. The bigger it is, the harder it is – it’s more difficult to get the county to do something or not do something. It’s almost impossible to get the Legislature to do something. It comes up from the bottom. You have to pay attention on the local level,” Rodenbeck said.
She gets upset at young people who don’t take interest in local government or want to get involved, noting that only 19 percent of the registered voters in the city cast ballots in a recent municipal election.
“We were busy, too. Even those of us who didn’t work outside the house. We didn’t have all the conveniences that women have now,” she said of her generation.
Her volunteer work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rodenbeck received the Dunedin Historical Society’s History Maker of the Year Award at a gathering Aug. 9 at the Dunedin Historical Museum. The society asks for nominations from various organizations in selecting honorees.
For the past 10 years, Rodenbeck has been a member of Dunedin’s Committee on Environmental Quality. However, despite her interest in local government, she never seriously considered running for a seat on the City Commission.
“I like to think my ego is not big enough. It requires a lot of sacrifice. It requires putting up with a lot of abuse. I sometimes feel very, very sorry for them. They seldom get praise. People only come before them when they have something to complain about,” Rodenbeck said.
Though her volunteer work has been extensive, she’s modest when asked what she thinks is her most significant accomplishment.
“I never even thought about it,” she said. “It gives me satisfaction to do it. Do I think I made a difference? I hope so. I never thought that because I did this, the world is a better place.”
Instead, she just wants to continue volunteering, though not as much, and without revealing her age.
Rodenbeck, who has two grown children, plans to remain in Dunedin in a house off Curlew Road where she moved to six years ago.
“I love it. It’s a very well run city,” Rodenbeck said. “We have been very fortunate. In the 40 years I lived here, we have had very good commissions. There may have been one or sometimes even two – who weren’t on the same page, shall we say. It’s still a very well run city and I think it’s still small enough to govern.”
Read more stories from September's Just 4 Women section in Tampa Bay Newspapers' free e-Edition, e-edition.TBNweekly.com.