COLUMBIA — Daryl Dudley owns more than 400 neckties.
“I have ties for every single holiday,” Dudley said. “I have an appropriate tie for every occasion.”
2401 Highland Drive
PERSONAL: Age 51. Married to Rita Dudley for 31 years.
OCCUPATION: Manager of Hy-Vee convenience store at 3120 West Broadway.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Iowa Falls High School, 1976; studied zoology at Ellsworth Community College for a year and herpetology at Iowa State University for two years.
RELEVANT BACKGROUND: Member of the Downtown Optimist Club.
With a collection that large, City Manager Bill Watkins might need to worry. Watkins has built somewhat of a reputation for his ties — some of which depict Looney Tunes characters, such as Bugs Bunny — but if Dudley is elected to the Fourth Ward seat on Columbia City Council, there may be a new neckwear king.
Dudley, the manager of the Hy-Vee convenience store at 3120 West Broadway, said customers sometimes give him ties as gifts and that he picks them up wherever he can: dollar stores, garage sales, department stores.
Why so much neckwear?
“If you have to wear them every day,” Dudley said, you “might as well have fun with them.”
Dudley didn't always have to wear a necktie, though. Growing up in rural Iowa, Dudley has had a wide array of experiences, including laying railroad track, studying venomous snakes and designing gunpowder, before running for City Council on a platform of public safety and job creation.
A rural youth
Dudley was born in Lake City, Iowa, in 1958 but was raised in Iowa Falls — a town of just over 5,500 people, according to the 1960 census.
He grew up on a farm and took part in every activity you might associate with a rural lifestyle. His family raised cattle, hogs and horses.
"My brothers and I went fishing all the time and caught bullheads," Dudley said. He laughed about eating the type of catfish. "We were from Iowa, the only people that eat bullheads."
Dudley also hunted with his family and friends or drove around town in his spare time. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, quail, duck and geese. "Dinner," as Dudley joked.
As a student at Iowa Falls High School, Dudley ran track and cross country. He said his best times were 4 minutes, 28 seconds in the mile and 9 minutes, 59 seconds in the 2-mile. When he wasn't running, Dudley participated in Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Star. A scout earns the Star rank with participation, leadership and community service, according to the Boy Scouts of America Web site.
Upon graduating in 1976, Dudley didn't stray far. He attended Ellsworth Community College in his hometown and studied zoology.
In the fall of 1977, Dudley's life was changed.
"I broke every bone left of center," Dudley said.
When Dudley leans over in his chair to pull his sock up, a large scar down the length of his shin peaks out from beneath his pant leg. It's the constant reminder of the motorcycle accident that put him in a coma for 11 days: a driver making a left turn hit him head on.
In Mercy and Methodist hospitals in Iowa, doctors and therapists had to teach Dudley to walk, talk and eat all over again. The accident gave him more than scars, though. It contributed to a sense of optimism and appreciation for life that spills out through his demeanor.
"You wake up in the morning, then it's a good day," Dudley said. "Ask those who didn't."
The accident isn't the only reason he praises every day he's alive, Dudley said. His wife, Rita, survived a fight with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
"He supported me very well," Rita Dudley said. "He did a lot of research when they didn't know what I had. He did everything that he could."
Pinned to every one of Dudley's ties is a small black button with just two words: "Cancer Sucks." He gives it away to anyone who asks about it.
"I buy a hundred at a time," Dudley said. The proceeds from all the buttons goes to cancer research, Dudley said.
"I could never understand how big people were afraid of snakes," Dudley said.
When he recovered from the motorcycle accident, Dudley attended Iowa State University for two years. He studied herpetology with a special emphasis in venomous snakes.
"Not many people can say they had 28 subspecies of snakes in their laundry room," Dudley said. He traveled to most U.S. states to catch his collection of mostly rattlesnakes, Dudley said. Despite all of the interaction, he's never been bitten.
So, why venomous snakes? He wanted to make a difference.
"My grandmother suffered from cancer," Dudley said. "A lot of medications are made from neurotoxins. Some blood disorders are controlled through the use of hemotoxic venoms."
Unfortunately for Dudley, finances ended up getting in the way.
"I decided I needed to make money rather than get an education," Dudley said. It's a decision that he should have made differently, he said.
After attending Iowa State, Dudley worked for a stint with Chicago & North Western Railway before another accident changed his life again.
"I was doing some foundation work, hit a nail and lacerated my cornea with a chip," Dudley said. Doctors glued his cornea back together, and he said now his vision is fine. While he spent several weeks recovering, he found a new direction.
Playing with fire
After two life-changing accidents, a recovering Dudley might have wanted a safer profession. Instead, he moved to Arizona to work for Dillon Precision Products, selling reloaders and other firearm products.
"I've been around guns all my life," Dudley said. He's certified by the National Rifle Association in nine different disciplines: personal protection; handguns; rifles; shotguns; muzzle-loading handguns, rifles and shotguns; reloading; and as a range officer.
Dudley doesn't make it down to the shooting range as much as he has in the past. He said he tries to be the best at whatever he is doing, and right now he's trying to be the best candidate for the Fourth Ward council seat rather than the most accurate shooter, something he's already excelled at as a competitive rifle shooter.
He placed fifth at a 200-marksman tournament in Phoenix in the late '90s, his best finish.
"The shooting I do is called benchrest shooting, where you put five bullets through the same hole at 200 yards," Dudley said.
In order to be a more accurate shooter, Dudley took up a hobby many competitive shooters engage in: reloading his own ammunition for added precision.
"I'm a self-taught ballistician," Dudley said. " I like to delve into things."
In 1995, Dudley's skills as a ballistician brought him to MidwayUSA in Columbia, but most notable work didn't happen there.
In 2001, Dudley moved to Richmond, Va., to work for Alliant Powder, where he helped create one of Alliant's most popular products: Reloder 10x, a smokeless bore gun powder ideal for benchrest shooting.
"You do testing and figure out what works best," Dudley said. "I still have 10 digits ... A sign of success."
Paul Furrier, who worked with Dudley at Alliant Powder, praised both Dudley and his work.
"He's a great guy," Furrier said. "He's not cut from the same bolt of cloth, if you know what I mean. I like him."
Furrier still sends Dudley products to test, like Alliant's latest powder, Reloder 17.
The return to Columbia
Dudley saw layoffs in the firearms industry as a sign to leave. Hy-Vee was hiring and Dudley and his wife missed Columbia, so they came back in 2002.
Aside from his job at Hy-Vee, Dudley teaches conceal and carry permit classes and spends a lot of his time buried in books. His favorite authors are Robert Heinlein, a renowned science fiction writer, and Wilbur Smith, an adventure novelist who sets a lot of his works in southern Africa.
"If you haven't read Wilbur Smith," Dudley said, "you are missing something."
Dudley's run for City Council grew out of an observation last summer that many of the roads around his work needed improvements, according to a previous Missourian report. Dudley, now endorsed by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, is making public safety a primary plank in his platform along with job creation and balanced leadership.
"How come people are afraid to go downtown?" Dudley asked. "You shouldn't be afraid to live in your own community."
Russell Potterfield, president of Battenfeld Technologies Inc., said in a previous Missourian report Dudley would be an asset to the council.
"I've been a friend of Daryl's for many years," Potterfield said. "I'm sure he would bring interesting views to the campaign."
Here's the list of public records used to write this story: Boone County Assessor's database, Boone County Collector's records and Case.net. These sources are reviewed for all candidates for public office.