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December 30, 2010

9

Lincoln’s Person of the Year: A bookstore owner who dared to enter the arena

by Deena Winter


The first time I met Scott Wendt, I went down to his bookstore when it was in its old location south of the Creamery in the Haymarket. He was up to his eyeballs in books, as they were just about to move to their current location a few blocks away on Ninth Street.
Up-and-coming developers at WRK had bought the building, and Bluestem Books had to find a new home. I’d go on to do a lot of talking to WRK owners Robert and Will Scott and Scott Wendt over the next few years, as they were crucial players in the debate over whether to build a $340 million arena project right next to Bluestem’s old home.
Good people, all around. I would have nominated the Scott twin brothers for Person of the Year, too, but I couldn’t just pick one and I know how twins hate to be considered one person, so I left them off the list.
Wendt was a quiet, studious bookstore owner who became increasingly involved in the arena debate. First, he showed up as commenter “scottw” on journalstar.com arena stories, sometimes mentioning that he was a Haymarket business owner, which always caught people’s interest. They, like me, had wrongly assumed most Haymarket owners would be ecstatic at the prospect of the city investing $340 million right next door to them.
Then Wendt began attending meetings of an opposition group that eventually called itself No2Arena. He became one of their spokespersons.
When I interviewed him in this new role — in his new bookstore — I was amazed at the amount of research he was doing. I thought I had immersed myself in all the reports and committee meetings and minutes I could find, but this guy sometimes found things I hadn’t seen. I guess we should expect that from a book learnin’ fellow.
He wasn’t always right — he’d clearly never been interviewed by TV, radio and newspaper reporters weekly and sometimes he stumbled over the facts. But overall, he was an impressive, grassroots spokesman for the “other side” — even if he was largely drowned out by a quarter-million-dollar pro-arena advertising campaign.
Of course, the No2Arena group was more than just Wendt, but he emerged as a thoughtful, reasonable, quiet but determined voice of opposition. He put himself out there in the public eye, and took his punches for it. He risked losing customers in the process.
Perhaps this is why Wendt trounced all other nominations for Person of the Year in Lincoln, with two and a half times as many votes from Winterized readers as Mayor Chris Beutler garnered, six times as many as UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, and nearly 20 times as many as the honorable Bo Pelini.
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paul " Mike" Grieger
    Dec 30 2010

    I agree…He chose to be counted.

    Reply
  2. jRosemary
    Dec 30 2010

    I am so thankful to have been able to vote for Scott Wendt!! Congratulations to Scott!!

    Reply
  3. Patte Newman
    Dec 30 2010

    Love the quote, Deena. My yellowed and tattered newsclip of that quote was front and center on my refrigerator door for years and years. And that is precisely why the Scott Wendts of the world deserve respect. How can anyone be critical of people like Scott or Kandra Hahn who educated themselves, researched and studied this location and other arenas and shared concerns with the community? There were a lot of thoughtful, educated voices with legitimate reasons to oppose the location/arena and that diligence should not be criticized, regardless of what side you came down on. Congrats Scott!

    Reply
  4. scottw
    Dec 30 2010

    Thank you all.
    This poll has been fun and I’ve appreciated the recognition.
    Actually, I enjoyed the entire campaign and all of the fine, dedicated people I met working on it (on both sides). I had the opportunity to do the research and a forum to speak out on something I believed in. I think we managed to make it a good debate and by voicing our concerns, will have a positive effect on the end product.

    Reply
  5. Mary Lazlo
    Dec 30 2010

    Ridiculous!

    Scott came across as a very bitter and out of touch man during the campaign. He cherry picked outdated data and twisted facts to try to scare the citizens of Lincoln. In the end, his viewpoint were resoundingly rejected by the voters

    Deena – can you tell us how many people voted in this poll of yours?

    Reply
  6. Dec 30 2010

    Mary — More than 200 votes were cast.

    Reply
  7. Roger Yant
    Dec 31 2010

    Way to go Scott! Thanks for doing this. Someone needs to stand up for those that are in opposition to a project. Mary Lazlo, if that is truly your name, bitter you call Scott. A person is now bitter if he or she stands up for something they believe in? So wrong Mary, this is a man who cares about his community, and does not want us jumping into something the people and city might regret in the future. (ex, Quest in Omaha is still loosing money, that is why they are now helping pay for it through property taxes, they too were promised that would never happen). Lets stop with the name calling because someone disagrees with you. Lets have civil discussions when we disagree.

    Reply
    • Mary Lazlo
      Jan 3 2011

      Interesting that Roger chooses to attack me and question my existence rather than consider my point of view. If you don’t like something somebody says, shout them down, no?

      The negativity of the No2Arena group is something that me and many of my friends, many of whom didn’t go into the election with a decision made, talked about during the campaign. It was always NO, NO, NO, rather than focusing on an alternative, positive future for Lincoln. What with Jane Kinsey and Kandra Hahn telling us the world was going to end, and Scott Wendt telling us that the Haymarket was already radioactive, there wasn’t much to connect to and it was a little too much to believe. In the end, people chose hope for something rather than fear the unknown

      I respect people that get involved in elections and take a stand, even if I don’t respect your opinion – I just think that you need to be honest with the facts and rely on something more than fear.

      The fact that Deena led off this article with the fact that the Scott Brothers kicked Wendt out of his old store location, seems to me to infer that maybe there was some bitterness and an axe to grind with the people behind the arena, not just a concern about the arena itself.

      Reply
  8. Roger Yant Is A Self Promoter
    Jan 2 2011

    Roger, you realize you can have an opinion and inform your community of information by blogging anonymously right? When you blog anonymously, 2 things happen…

    1) Nobody can accuse you of being a self-promoter
    2) You won’t have to worry about all the humble anonymous bloggers not trying to make a name for ourselves calling you names.

    Don’t give me this ‘what have you done for Lincoln’ garbage, for all you know I’m Kay Orr, Doug Berueder, Anne Boyle, John Decamp, Glen Friendt, or Deena Winter.

    Reply

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