Spirits were riding high in the Guthrie council chamber as Mayor Steven Gentling took center stage with a beaming gray-haired woman.
“Whereas Maxine Pruitt has displayed a true commitment for the city of Guthrie for 25 years,” he read from a plaque so shiny I could see my reflection through the TV, “and has worked for NINE mayors, I am honored to declare Friday, July 7 as Maxine Pruitt Day.”
Whoops and hollers erupted in the standing room-only chamber. The mayor flashed an ear-to-ear grin and Pruitt accepted his handkerchief to dab her eyes.
“I’m so overwhelmed,” she spoke haltingly between tears. “My father-in-law, he very seldom missed a council meeting. He loved this town. I love this town. I love everybody in it.”
She whirled around to the dais. “And council, you all are the best.”
City manager Leroy Alsup crept up to spring a second surprise on her. “Maxine collects paperweights,” he explained with a hefty key-shaped object in his hand. “So we got her a paperweight that has her name on the top and it says ‘Key to Retirement.'”
However, the good vibes promptly faded as the council turned to a subject even heavier than a paperweight: the old Excelsior Library.
“There’s been quite a bit of history on this,” frowned the city manager. “Over a three-year period, the Friends of the Library have committed to certain steps renovating the building.”
Suddenly, Council Member Brian Bothroyd leaned forward, grabbing his microphone.
“What happens if, after year one, the terms aren’t met?” he inquired sharply.
“The city has the right to terminate with 60 days written notice,” the manager replied.
His answer set off Council Member Bothroyd on a forceful diatribe toward the Friends of the Library.
“I was requested to champion and make sure this building wasn’t gonna get demolished. And I did that,” he thundered.
“My goal was always to get y’all the key to the building, which I did. We surplused the building so I could hand you the keys on a silver platter! And it’s still sitting there.”
He gestured in outrage. “I wanna see you guys be successful. Leroy said it: the city has 60 days and they can retract the deal! I don’t wanna do that!”
“The city has some responsibility,” interjected Mayor Gentling hotly, “that we’re not turning over a building that’s set for failure.”
I don’t know what part of “key on a silver platter” the mayor wasn’t understanding. But Bothroyd reached into his bag of superlatives and pulled out a ringer. “Again, when I’m championed to do something, I follow through. A hundred percent.”
If Council Member Bothroyd was a teensy touchy on the whole keys-on-platters ordeal, it may be because there was another issue knocking in his brain.
“I’m a straight shooter and I throw it on the table,” he ratcheted the folksiness to eleven.
“Let me tell you what happened the other night: I got about 40 calls and counting. They asked, how come I didn’t want to settle the Bruning case?”
His voice went high in disbelief. “I said, I voted no on the MOTION. The motion WASN’T to settle the lawsuit. The other part was a tax on you and I! THAT’S what I voted against.”
He waved his hand dismissively after venting. “So I don’t have to field any more phone calls on it.”
I’ll spread the word.