Interview #62: Jefferson City, MO Mayor Carrie Tergin (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

I talked to Carrie Tergin last year about her reputation for taking “selfies with the mayor.” But after this year’s International City Hall Selfie Day, I HAD to get her take on the 2017 artwork.

Q: A couple of weeks ago it was International City Hall Selfie Day and I’d like us to critique some of the city council selfies that people sent in. Let’s start with your image. What’s going on there?

A: This is Cardboard Carrie decked out in the eclipse glasses. Councilman [Rick] Mihalevich, who had to run the meeting in my absence, really got a workout and took several pictures. I’m very impressed with Rick and his form.

Q: Of the top 10 city council selfies, did you have a favorite one?

A: First of all, I loved every single one! This Columbia, South Carolina–the gentleman holding it up, he’s kind of got his mouth open. You can tell it might be his first selfie ever. It makes me think of maybe my dad if my dad were to take a selife! He really made an effort.

The second one would be Ocean City. That is, like, wow–Mr. Fuzzy Britches? How impressive! Why didn’t we think to bring Darco, the police dog?

I would say my top choice was Madison, Wisconsin. It almost looks like Maurice Cheeks is standing in the center of the world. He has literally put Madison at the center of the world and that would be my top pick.

Q: Maurice Cheeks’s selfie also has excellent product placement–he’s holding a City Hall Selfie Day sticker! But Mayor, if you came into a council meeting and noticed a big stain on the floor and the police chief told you, “that is from our horse that we brought here after hours and he pooped on the floor,” what would your reaction be?

A: I think I may frown on that just a little bit! I mean, hats off to our police officers, our firefighters, and honestly, that includes our police dog, Darco. It includes Mr. Fuzzy Britches the horse. That’s something else I liked about [International City Hall Selfie Day]: when you recognize those who keep our city safe.

Q: Carrie, I heard an anecdote at one of your council meetings that Jefferson City stopped making public commenters give their address because people were getting fan mail from prisoners who were watching. Is that true?

A: [Laughs] A couple of reasons: one is safety. When you’re at a council meeting giving your address, we do stream our meetings live. So, “oh, guess what? So-and-so who lives at XYZ? They’re not home right now!” You don’t want something to happen. And two: we welcome people whether you’re inside city limits or not.

Q: I saw that a Thomas Jefferson reenactor stopped by one of your meetings! How often does he come in?

A: In Jefferson City, we do celebrate as often as possible. The thought was, let’s have a birthday celebration for Thomas Jefferson and why not invite him to a council meeting?

Q: Do you think the next City Hall Selfie Day, you’ll get a picture with Thomas Jefferson?

A: He kind of photobombs a lot of my selfies because he’s on the city seal behind where the mayor sits!


Follow Mayor Carrie Tergin on Twitter: @CarrieTergin 

#117: Park City, KS 7/11/17

Emotions were running high at City Hall as Mayor Ray Mann called the meeting to order with a tearful farewell to an old friend.

“Daniela,” he murmured, “for the last time in this building that has served us well, would you call the roll?”

That’s right, the doors are closing on fabled Hydraulic Street and the message was clear: don’t leave anything behind tonight.

“We’ll be closed Thursday and Friday and Monday,” announced the city administrator. “We’ll be moving from this facility to the new facility.”

“We’ve got movers in place. So it’s gonna be a busy day Thursday and Friday,” the mayor observed, glancing sideways at a couple of the council members as if to say, “you’re still coming to carry boxes, right?”

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The new Park City Hall, I’m assuming

But rather than rest up and conserve their energy, the council found themselves thrust into the middle of an existential crisis.

“What has happened is the Kansas legislature decided to take a more proactive approach encouraging people to use their seatbelts,” an employee explained to steely glances. “They established a ‘Seatbelt Education Fund.’ Fines for seatbelts will increase from $10 to $30, and $20 will be sent to fund this.”

Then he revealed the kicker: “They’ve also added a section that says that no county or municipality can change it. Because we have an ordinance on the books that says the seatbelt fine is only $10, we have to change it.”

Council Member Tom Jones jumped in sounding about as enthusiastic as someone who’s been asked to move an entire city hall. “We don’t have any choice,” he sighed.

He added, seemingly with sarcasm, “they’re ‘helping’ us out again.”

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“Could they also help us load the vans on Thursday?”

But while Park City was cleaning up its ordinances, there was a lingering question: who would clean the brand new City Hall?

“They come in and clean the building while staff is not there?” quizzed Council Member George Capps.

“Yes, sir,” the clerk answered.

Capps seemed astonished. “What have you done to check their security?”

“They go through an extensive background check and get fingerprinted,” she assured him. “And those same individuals will have to clean every week.”

“Okay,” he eased up. “Thank you.”

Getting fingerprinted to clean a city hall? What kind of top-secret, classified, national security information are they stor–hold on. I just noticed something: EVERYONE is wearing official Park City-branded shirts! Man, that mayor runs a tight ship here.

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I DEMAND YOU SEND ME ONE OF EVERY COLOR, MAYOR!

As the meeting wrapped up, people shared their fond–and not so fond–memories from the Fourth of July.

“I thought the holidays went real good, except all the fireworks really got the dogs upset,” Council Member Capps smiled wearily. “I, for one, got bit. It’s just the price we pay, I guess.”

While I admire his cavalier attitude in the face of, well, sharp teeth, someone else paid zero price for his canine encounter.

“I was able to be part of the pet judge contest,” bragged Council Member George Glover. “They had ‘wagging tail dog’ and ‘best sit-up dog,’ ‘best trick dog’….It was good to be part of that.”

To that, Council Member Melvin Kerr retorted, “I think I was the most popular councilman. I was handing out the ice cream!”

With a hearty laugh, the last meeting in the old City Hall was over. Onward to greener pastures!

Final thoughts: Seriously, I would like a shirt please.

Interview #45: City of Sydney, NSW Councilor Christine Forster (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Folks, this is a first: we have an Australian city councilor–and a good one at that! Christine Forster is a Liberal Party councilor who also ran for Lord Mayor (which is Australian for “mayor”) last year. We got outraged at what I was seeing–or not seeing–in her council meetings.

Q: Where I am, it is Sunday. But where you are, it is Monday. So you are IN THE FUTURE! I think it would be fun if you told the audience what I am going to say next. I’ll put my fingers in my ears.

A: Well I’m pretty sure you’re going to ask me how the City of Sydney council operates.

Q: [Taking fingers out of ears] Okay, great. I want to start by talking about your dog. I know you’re a big animal lover and–wait a minute. I bet that’s EXACTLY what you thought I’d say. Nice try! Let’s talk instead about your council meetings. I could not find a scrap of video footage anywhere. What’s going on? Did a dingo eat your cameras?

A: [Laughs] It wasn’t a dingo and it wasn’t even my pug, Audrey Pugburn! It’s a sad fact that unfortunately there is no video or audio record because our Lord Mayor–she’s been in charge of the show since 2004–resolutely refuses to broadcast or televise our meetings. It has been something I’ve been pushing for several years now. But the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is intransigent.

Q: In July 2014, the council decides to do the live streaming. That passes on a 5-4 vote. What happened next?

A: It passed on a 5-4 vote because the Lord Mayor’s numbers were down. Somebody was away on sick leave. The motion was rescinded at the next meeting by the Lord Mayor when she had the numbers again.

Q: How long have the debates been on this and what was the tone?

A: There was no debate, really. As soon as the new council was [sworn in for 2016], I spoke very robustly in favor of it. And the Lord Mayor and her team simply voted it down.

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City of Sydney, NSW Councilor Christine Forster

Q: This is frustrating to me. Clearly it’s frustrating to you because you’re living through it. Are regular people as angry about this as you are?

A: People want this. There are councils around the world that have been doing this since the 1980s. It’s beyond frustrating, frankly. I have no problem with anyone photographing or recording anything I say or do. I’m happy to open myself to that level of scrutiny.

Q: I did contact the Lord Mayor’s office and asked for an answer about why she refuses to allow the rest of us to see what’s happening. I received no response. Quite frankly, I am outraged that Clover Moore thinks the people’s business should be done on HER terms. However, being fair here, can you think of any time that you or your fellow councilors used a meeting to grandstand, take a shot at the mayor, or create a distraction?

A: Absolutely not. This is not about us trying to score political points. This is an administration that will countenance no variation, no opposition, that is entirely about control.

Q: Couldn’t you hold up your cell phone and Facebook Live stream it?

A: It might well end up that somebody does that. It won’t be me!


Follow Councilor Christine Forster on Twitter: @resourcefultype

#89: Sheldon, IA 3/1/17

It was an exciting day in Northwest Iowa: the city of Sheldon was expecting!

No, not a newborn. Rather, a fully-grown library director.

“We are successful?” Mayor Katricia Meendering inquired with a coffee cup poised at her lips in case a spit take was necessary.

“Yes!” a city employee blurted out enthusiastically.

“Wonderful,” said the mayor, taking a relaxed sip of joe.

“It’s taken us a little bit but we’re happy with Nicole Morgan, who we found from Oskaloosa,” the employee explained, anxiously scanning the council members for a reaction.

There were nods of approval around the room.

“Family?” the mayor quizzed offhandedly. She quickly chuckled and added, “I’m just kidding, you don’t have to answer that.”

The woman was clearly caught off-guard, but didn’t want to say no to Sheldon’s head honcho. “Oh, um, she has family in the area. She’ll be commuting for a bit.”

Okay, folks, let’s not get TOO personal. She hasn’t even started–

“Maybe she could come introduce herself at some point?” city attorney Micah Schreurs inquired hopefully.

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“Maybe you could find out what kind of flowers she likes?”

“Sure,” the staffer responded hesitantly. “We’ll…let her acclimate a little bit first.”

“Yep. Get her feet wet. Then…the first meeting in April!” Meendering barked. She immediately broke into another awkward laugh. “I’m just kidding.”

Perhaps. But if I were Nicole, I’d hold off on the unpacking until I made an appearance at city hall.

In a thrilling turn of events, the library wasn’t Sheldon’s only source of breaking news. The mayor coyly waited until the sleepy middle of the meeting to drop this bombshell on the other unsuspecting Cornhuskers: her exclusive tour of the Crossroads Pavilion.

“Wow,” she deadpanned. “If you have not had the opportunity to see the most recent updates they have done…wow. It’s absolutely breathtaking.”

This modern engineering marvel was so inspiring, there was apparently only one word to describe it.

“We were there at noon. Two, three guys [were] putting the floor down and…wow,” she murmured.

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Interior of Crossroads Pavilion

But the praise had barely died down before Council Member Pete Hamill brought up a subject that was distinctly not-wow.

“For dog and pet owners, be responsible for your pets. Just heard of two incidents in the past ten days of one person being bit by a dog,” he frowned, propping his elbow on the dais. “And then another person walking their dog being attacked by two strays.”

“Oh, my,” exclaimed the startled mayor. “I thought you were going to talk about ‘doody business’ because I’ve been getting a lot of calls on that.”

Council members silently watched her fold her arms in annoyance.

“That’s serious. I think the doody is serious too, but…” she trailed off.

Not as serious as a dog-mauling was the implication. Let’s hope the new library director isn’t watching. She might just choose to stay in bite-free Oskaloosa.

Final thoughts: Clearly the V.I.P. (Very Important Pavilion) here was Crossroads. I give it 8 out of 10 stars for the “wow” factor.

#84: Cape Girardeau, MO 2/6/17

There’s an old saying in the Midwest: the only thing more unpredictable than the waters of the mighty Mississippi River are the Cape Girardeau city council meetings.

More than a dozen onlookers chatted breezily, flipping through agenda packets. A dog yipped from somewhere in the back row as the meeting was gaveled to order. The dais was light two council members–Bob Fox and Wayne Bowen left empty chairs and broken hearts in their absence.

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If anyone recognizes this man, please tell me what his shirt loves.

But the time for mourning faded quickly, as city manager Scott Meyer whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a tale of heroism and intrigue.

“We had one nice story about something our employees do all the time: going the second mile,” he bragged to the audience. “We recently had a firefighter who, in taking care of a trucker who had to be taken by ambulance [and] was really concerned about his truck….He took it upon himself to go the second mile and to take care of that truck and get it safe and secured.”

Council members leaned forward eagerly as Meyer proudly added, “and that’s just something your friends and neighbors do every day.” Yes, every day the streets are chock full of abandoned–but well taken care of–trucks.

Then without warning, the city manager veered off script.

“One more announcement. Julia’s gonna make that for me,” he smirked.

Council members swiveled their heads quizzically toward the podium. I don’t like the looks of this. How bad is the news that he had to outsource it?!

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This man is contemplating how quickly he can bolt for the exit.

“Thank you, Scott,” smiled Julia. “It’s my distinct pleasure and honor to announce that our mayor, Harry Rediger, was accepted as the Outstanding Public Official for this past year!”

Cheers and whistles exploded in the chamber. The dog howled. Mayor Rediger sheepishly flipped through his packet.

“I didn’t see that on the agenda,” he quipped.

“No! We were trying to keep it a surprise,” exclaimed Julia.

The mayor flashed a big grin.”Well, you did!”

Who says there are no secrets in small towns! In fact, I bet those two missing council members were about to spill the beans–until Julia took care of them. (Permanently.)

Julia advised His Honor to mark the ceremony on his calendar. “At our conference in Branson on March 9, we’re hoping you’ll be able to make it.”

The city manager lurched in his chair. “March 9?! That’s the night of a strategic plan meeting.” He feigned begrudging acceptance and clapped a hand on the mayor’s shoulder. “But you can miss ONE.”

Mayor Rediger was still a wee bit embarrassed from all the attention. “I told ’em I was gonna go to every one of them!” he said apologetically to the city manager. Then he turned to Julia.

“I can make that.”

After all that excitement, the meeting moved swiftly and uneventfully to a close. Even the chicken ordinance, which normally would get my feathers ruffled, failed to take flight.

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Gentlemen, aren’t our animals regulated ENOUGH?!

Final thoughts: For being able to pull off a surprise, I give Julia and the city manager 10 out of 10 strippers-jumping-out-of-cakes.

#34: Riverton, WY 7/5/16

Wyoming may be the Wild West, but this week’s Riverton city council meeting was anything but rowdy. It was downright calm. Sedate.

Even–as you’ll see–sad.

There was a glimmer of drama at the top of the hour, as some dum-dum booked the city council meeting AND the Finance Committee meeting for the same time. Great, now everyone has to wait on some loooooong, booooooring committee. Grab a pillow!

“I would move for claims to be paid in the amount of $189,402.59,” Council Member Martin Cannan began.

“I’ll second it,” responded Council Member Holly Jibben–coincidentally the second and only other person on the Finance Committee. “All in favor say aye.”

Two ayes–one bass, one soprano. “Meeting adjourned,” Council Member Jibben leaned back as the meeting fizzled after 55 seconds.

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Hey, Riverton, do they make your committees in men’s sizes?

The camera zoomed out to reveal Mayor John “Lars” Baker with shirt sleeves rolled up. He tapped his pen impatiently as the first public commenter approached–a man with a bushy mustache and a shirt as red as the Wyoming sunset.

“My wife and I, we have a, uh,” the man started, suddenly bracing himself against the podium, his voice cracking. “Excuse me…two-year-old German Shepherd. My wife caught the dog eating a piece of tar paper in our backyard. There’s tar paper, fiber glass insulation, home insulation” from a nearby construction project.

“May 3, our dog had a seizure. Up to this date he’s had nine seizures.” The man clutched his mouth and fought back tears.

“They’ve got all kinds of stuff stacked–it gets shredded in the wind and blows right into our yard. I would hope something can be done. We had to put a dog down two years ago,” he broke down once more at the memory, “and I don’t wanna do it again.”

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Sometimes city council meetings are sad, boys and girls.

Mayor Baker uncomfortably attempted to play grief counselor. “Well, this has certainly been quite an ordeal for you,” he winced.

A staff member jumped in: “We do quite often talk to [construction crews] about a lot of that. But obviously we need to do it more,” she looked into the citizen’s tearful eyes sympathetically.

“We’ll keep plugging away,” the mayor mumbled, staring blankly at the man with the sick dog. “Okay? Thank you.”

His Honor didn’t exactly radiate empathy. But here’s the thing: Mayor Baker does not show any emotion. Calling him “low energy” vastly exaggerates the amount of energy he has. The man could put a case of Red Bull to sleep.

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Someone pump up the mayor–he’s deflating!

Look no further than his reaction to news that the airport just added a flight. “We need to encourage people to use the airport,” the city administrator cheerfully explained. “Many of us attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. I think we put five passengers on there and they all felt like celebrities!”

Terrific story, yes, your honor?

“We’re excited about this airplane and, uh…boy, I just hope that people will fly,” the mayor sighed, sounding neither excited nor hopeful. “If people respond to that and fly Riverton, we will be in the airline business again.” I cannot convey how truly funereal Riverton’s mayor sounded. Except to tell you–I’m not exaggerating–that he barely paused before adding:

“The other thing today…we had a funeral for Dianne Tippets.”