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A salute to three positive leaders

HAVE YOU HEARD the one about the Navy captain, the Canadian politician and the Episcopal priest?

Probably not, because it’s not the setup for a joke. It’s the disparate trio of men I’d like to tip my hat to as we near the end of an eventful year.

At first glance, they seem to have little in common. They’re not even from the same country. But in all three cases, my respect for them has grown during 2012. So as we prepare to launch a new year, why not celebrate the positives of the past year?

Capt. Pete Nette, the base commander at Dahlgren, is that rare leader who can project authority and accessibility in equal measure.

He’s a naval aviator who logged nearly 3,000 hours in the air, landing on 18 different aircraft carriers. He’s now become something like the Navy “mayor” of the bases at Dahlgren and Indian Head, Md.

The folks who work for him love him. The other commands he collaborates with respect him. He is, as one person in the know puts it, “the real thing.”

My connection to the Canadian politician goes back a couple of decades to an editorial writers’ convention in Ottawa.

One of my assignments there was to interview onstage then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien of Canada and opposition leader Preston Manning of the Reform Party.

Chrétien was a hoot. In his broken English, he was willing to have some fun with our conversation. But Manning is the one I remember the most. A big fan of Thomas Jefferson, the Canadian conservative is about as far as you can get from the bellowing political infighter we’ve seen so often in U.S. elections.

He’s a man of ideas or, as Macleans magazine puts it, “a fertile generator.” And, as I discovered recently, Manning, at the age of 70, is still focusing on the discourse relating to good governance.

Though no longer in office (due to a merger, his party doesn’t even exist anymore), he now leads the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Calgary, where anyone with a good idea is welcome.

In the wake of our exhausting election year, we could learn a lot from Preston Manning.

Finally, I salute the Rev. Ron Okrasinski, the longtime rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Colonial Beach, who will soon retire from that post after almost 33 years of ministry in the riverside town.

He has been my supervising priest during a just-completed internship that is part of the process of my becoming a deacon. He already has sent in his evaluation, though, so I’m beyond the period of currying favor.

He is known as Father Ron everywhere from the town’s boardwalk along the Potomac River to the monumental spaces of the National Cathedral, where he has served as a chaplain for 18 years.

From the beginning, back in 1980, the priest and the town might have seemed an odd combination. But the passionate clergyman from Newark, N.J., and the funky town once dubbed “the Las Vegas of the East” turned out to be a powerful combination. The town and the priest have been good for each other. Bravo to Father Ron for a third of a century of compassion and hard work.

In the waning days of 2012, I offer my thanks for the positive impact made this year by people like the captain, the politician and the priest.

Ed Jones: 540/374-5401

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